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Disease Outbreak News

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ministry Takes Steps to Upgrade Health Care for Pilgrims

Mohammed Rasooldeen, Arab News RIYADH, 7 November 2007

The Ministry of Health will establish computer links between hospitals and pharmacies in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah during the upcoming Haj season to help doctors ascertain the availability of drugs and medicines at pharmacies, the ministry announced yesterday.
“Such a network would help hospitals coordinate with pharmacies to find the availability of drugs and medicines so that doctors can prescribe them without any problems,” Dr. Ridah M. Khaleel, consultant to the Ministry of Health and head of the ministry’s Haj Committee, said in a statement to Arab News.
He added that such arrangements are being made to ensure that pilgrims are provided with appropriate health care services during their stay in the Kingdom.
The ministry will also deploy this year more health officials at the Haj Terminal in Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport to look after the health interests of pilgrims.
“Officials will be deployed in the six arrival lounges to monitor the health condition of pilgrims through surveillance cameras installed at the airport. They will also meet and assist pilgrims facing health problems,” said Khaleel.
The ministry has purchased three new ambulances at a cost of SR120,000 to add to its present fleet at the airport. “These vehicles will be used to transport sick pilgrims, if any, to the nearest hospital from the airport,” he added.
Meanwhile, Saudi diplomatic missions abroad have been instructed to issue Haj visas only to pilgrims that have vaccination certificates against meningitis and, depending on the country, other diseases such as yellow fever.
Pilgrims coming from countries where yellow fever is endemic should carry with them valid certificates showing that they have been vaccinated against the illness, said the official.
Aircraft, ships and other modes of transport coming from such countries should also carry certificates proving that they have been disinfected before entering Saudi territory.
Pilgrims should get vaccinated against meningitis at least 10 days before arriving in the Kingdom.
Domestic pilgrims, residents of Makkah and Madinah and workers on assignments related to Haj, should also take meningitis vaccination.
A single meningitis shot has a three-year validity period.
The Health Ministry also advises pilgrims, particularly the aged and those with respiratory diseases, diabetes, and kidney, liver and heart complaints, to get vaccinated against influenza.
Pilgrims suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, renal disorders and cardiac problems are advised to consult family doctors prior to leaving for Haj and to also bring with them adequate medication and medical reports of their health condition in case of an emergency.
As part of its health education program, the ministry will distribute 1.7 million pamphlets in 10 languages to pilgrims. Pamphlets are being printed in several languages, including English, Arabic, French, Urdu, Bahasa, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Mandarin Chinese and Bengali.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Haj has announced that the first day of arrival of foreign pilgrims at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad ibn Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah has been fixed for Saturday, Nov. 11.
Pilgrims will continue to arrive at both the airports until Dec. 14. The last date for pilgrims who arrive in Makkah first to travel to Madinah will be Dec. 5 by bus and Dec. 12 by air.
The final date for pilgrims to come from Madinah to Makkah by bus will be Dec. 15 and by air via Jeddah will be Dec.16.
The closing date for departing pilgrims has been fixed for Jan. 24.

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