16 new MERS cases found; 2 dead

Updated 20 May 2014
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16 new MERS cases found; 2 dead

Two new deaths from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in Saudi Arabia has jacked up the toll to 107, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.
Sixteen new cases were also confirmed over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases diagnosed in the kingdom to 361, the MOH said in its webpage on MERS.
It said the two fatalities included a 41-year-old man in the northwestern city of Tabuk and an 88-year-old in Riyadh.
Of the 16 new infections, seven were reported in Riyadh, three in Jeddah, two in Tabuk, and one each in Makkah, Madinah, Najran and Hafr Al-Batin.
As in many other cases, most of the new infections involved persons more than 50 years old and suffering from other diseases such as chronic heart problems, hypertension and diabetes.
The figures in the Kingdom represent the bulk of infections registered worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), apart from Saudi Arabia, cases have been reported in elsewhere in the Middle Eastern (Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates); in Europe (France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); in North Africa (Tunisia); and in Asia (Malaysia and the Philippines).
A WHO statement on Wednesday said the source and mode of infection for the virus remain undetermined. 
 “Approximately 75% of the recently reported cases are secondary cases, meaning that they are considered to have acquired the infection from another case through human-to-human transmission,” WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ala Alwan said. “The majority of these secondary cases have been infected within the healthcare setting and are mainly healthcare workers, although several patients are also considered to have been infected with MERS-CoV while in hospital for other reasons.” 
“Although the majority of the cases had either no or only minor symptoms, and most do not continue to spread the virus, WHO acknowledges that some critical information gaps remain to better understand the transmission of the virus as well as the route of infection. WHO is unaware at this point in time of the specific types of exposure in the health care facilities that have resulted in transmission of these infections, but this remains a concern,” it added.
WHO said it has offered its assistance to mobilize international expertise to work jointly with national health authorities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to investigate the current outbreaks in order to determine the transmission chain of this recent cluster and whether there is any evolving risk that may be associated with the current transmissibility pattern of the virus.

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Health Ministry needs overhaul

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Health Ministry needs overhaul

The change in leadership at the Ministry of Health that sees Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah succeeded by Labor Minister Adel Fakeih puts the Health Ministry at a crossroads. The monumental challenges of getting the upper hand over the coronavirus notwithstanding, the Health Ministry is faced with internal issues that might affect its work in eradicating MERS as well as boosting the low morale of government health care workers.
Al-Rabeeah is a humble and down to earth person and exhibits professionalism at every level. He took Saudi Arabia to the international level in health care with its conjoined twins separation program. His implementation of a system at the National Guard’s hospitals remains in place and is unrivaled by any other Saudi health care program.
But the greatest enemy of any organization, particularly one as large as the Health Ministry, is a mid-level management structure unwilling or ill-equipped to carry out administrative policies and decisions. Unique, forward-thinking policies that led to contract signings with Saudi or foreign consultants had the promise of offering first-class services to patients. The problem was that somewhere along the line of conception to completion, many projects were never carried out or established at the minimum level, thus creating a gap between the providers and the patients.
Saudis soon began to distrust government hospitals. Those who could afford it, traveled abroad for medical care while others opted for care in private hospitals. Saudis and expats not financially capable of such care entered a health care system they had little confidence in and paid a high price with subpar service. Saudi Arabia often provided third-world care to sick people who could not find beds in hospitals or dealt with questionable care in emergency rooms.
This doesn’t mean that all care was substandard. Quite the contrary, Saudi Arabia boasts a sizeable number of skilled surgeons, internists and consultants. Nurses and technicians are well trained.
The problem is neither resources nor available facilities, but the use of those resources and the distribution of expertise — expertise that is found in big cities but absent in the rural areas.
A hierarchy developed in which some consultants looked at the bottom of the personnel pyramid of technicians and nurses and viewed them more in a master-and-slave relationship. Further, high-level administrators cut across-the-board financial incentives for nurses and technicians who worked with infectious diseases or other dangerous work and left it to middle managers to determine on an individual basis who was deserving of the financial rewards. Often the incentives did not go to the best deserving, but to those who had wasta. For the most part consultants are treated well and receive financial incentives for their hard work. But nurses and lower level technicians have been deprived of financial incentives to carry out their jobs, leading to poor morale and the public airing of the Health Ministry’s dirty laundry on television news shows and newspapers.
Saudi Arabia does have good models of exceptional medical practices in specialized hospitals, such as King Faisal Specialist Hospital, the National Guard Specialist Hospitals and Armed Forces Hospitals. Why the high standards applied at these facilities are not implemented at every government hospital is a mystery.
Another mystery is the use of foreign companies to bring modern medical care to the Kingdom. For example, recently, a trustworthy friend wrote about the Health Ministry signing a SR12 billion contract with three international companies to run dialysis centers throughout the country. As a result dialysis sessions more than doubled from SR450 to SR1,400 per session. The agreement is only for five years and there is no integration of foreign expertise into our own health care workforce and system. Rather, we are left with a large question mark of what happens when these foreign companies go home.
Every Saudi is entitled to have access to a hospital bed. They are entitled access to a consultant and not have to wait until they are terminally ill. They are entitled to medical prescriptions at Health Ministry pharmacies without undue financial burdens. And each Saudi is entitled to a clean hospital to minimize hospital-borne viruses that are just as dangerous as any virus contracted outside the facility.
It takes time to reach this level of professionalism, but as we are quickly learning from the spread of MERS, the clock is ticking and time is not really a luxury.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

FaceOf: Ahmad Al-Khatib, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries

Ahmad Al-Khatib
Updated 46 min 47 sec ago
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FaceOf: Ahmad Al-Khatib, chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries

  • Saudi Arabian Military Industries aims to aims to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign purchases of military products

JEDDAH: Ahmad Al-Khatib was appointed the chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) in October 2017. 

He also holds the posts of chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) since 2016; chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Fund for Development; adviser to the general secretariat of the Cabinet; adviser to the minister of defense; and adviser to the court of the crown prince.

Al-Khatib inaugurated on Friday the new facilities of the Aircraft Accessories and Components Company (AACC) at its new headquarters at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah during a ceremony under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

SAMI aims to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign purchases of military products and become one of the top 25 global companies in the field of military industries.

“Our goal is to localize more than 50 percent of the Kingdom’s military spending by 2030,” said the crown prince in his earlier statement.

Al-Khatib is a former adviser to the royal court, was the minister of health between 2014 and 2016, and served as the chairman for the Saudi stock company established in 2006, Jadwa Investment.

Al-Khatib has 23 years of experience in banking. In 1992 he joined the Bank of Riyad, working in various departments for 11 years and helping to establish the customer investment department. 

In 2003, Al-Khatib joined SABB Bank and participated in the establishment of Islamic Banking (Amanah). He then became the bank’s general manager.