Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih has appointed a new team to manage King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, where a spike in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infections among medical staff has sparked public panic.
Fakeih announced the new team on Twitter as he launched an awareness campaign to help stop the spread of the disease, which has killed 117 people in the kingdom as of Wednesday.
In its latest update, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday that the total number of MERS infections in the kingdom since September 2012 has risen to 431.
The latest deaths included a 68-year-old woman who had been previously recorded as a confirmed MERS case in Jeddah and a 60-year-old man in Madinah. Both died on May 5, said the MOH report.
Fakeih urged the public to extend their cooperation in combating the virus by practicing simple precautions.
The campaign urges people not only to follow strict measures of hygiene, but specifically to avoid sick camels and refrain from eating raw camel meat or drinking unboiled camel milk.
Some researchers think the virus may have been passed on to humans by camels.
Fakeih, who is the incumbent labor minister, was named acting health minister in a concurrent capacity after Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah relieved Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeah of his post last month.
Fakieh said on Twitter late Tuesday that he had sacked the head of King Fahd Hospital and named Dr. Emad Al-Jahdali as the new director-general and Dr. Hani Jahdar and Dr. Mohammed Qaroot as assistant directors-general.
Al-Jahdali is an Occupational and Environmental Medicine Consultant physician with a Canadian Medical Residency training degree from University of Alberta / Edmonton/ Canada, Fellow of both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the American College of Occupational and Environmental medicine. He has more than 21 years of extensive hands on experience in various clinical, administrative, and executive leadership roles, including his tenures at Saudi Aramco, King Abdullah University for Science & Technology and the International Medical Center (IMC).
The Jeddah hospital was temporarily shut last month after several health workers were infected by MERS. The panic that followed prompted at least four doctors to resign in mid-April after they refused to treat MERS patients for fear of infection.
Fakeih has reiterated his commitment to offer the best health services to the people in the Kingdom and assured that health care services would be delivered promptly to those who seek medical assistance from his ministry hospitals .
“The Government is doing its best to prevent the spread of the MERS coronavirus. Now we need the help of the public in implementing simple precautions to prevent the spread of the virus,” he said.
“The campaign is based on expert medical advice from respected organizations and health care professionals. We would like to thank them for their important contributions in its implementation ,” he added.
He said the public awareness campaign is to combat the MERS Corona virus and to empower the public with crucial up-to-date information required to play their part in combatting the virus.
Dr. Sami Badawood, spokesman of the Jeddah Health Affairs Department, said Fakeih has important messages to health workers which he wanted to deliver in person. He said each hospital director should personally responsible for the anti-infection program, and noted that infection fighting procedures need more follow up from hospital leaderships to reach the required level. He stressed that the presence of hospital leaderships with the working team has positive impacts on the workers.