Saudi Arabia, Finland to cooperate in health sector, says Finnish minister

The main themes of the visit have been health technology and digital services. (Supplied)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Saudi Arabia, Finland to cooperate in health sector, says Finnish minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Finland have agreed to boost cooperation in the health sector by enhancing knowledge sharing, capacity building, introducing new health technology and digital services. “The plan is to boost cooperation as Finland stands at the forefront in health technology, health science, research and expertise,” Pirkko Mattila, Finnish minister of social affairs and health, told Arab News in an interview on Friday.
Mattila, who is leading a delegation of top Finnish health institutions and companies, said: “The main themes of the visit have been health technology and digital services, notably concerning elderly care, as well as special education related to health and supporting families.” She held talks with Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, health minister, and Tamader bint Yousef Al-Rammah, deputy minister of labor and social development, during her stay in Riyadh.
Also present during the interview were Antti Rytovuori, Finnish ambassador; Andre Heikius, chairman of the board of the nutrition and lifestyle company Edevent; Meria Heikela, director of Business Finland; Tomi Korhonen, director of marketing and communications of Business Finland; Dr. Kari Synberg, special adviser to the minister; Essi Raitala, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Finland; and Miia Lahti, desk officer for Saudi Arabia at Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Referring to her wide-ranging talks with Saudi officials, Mattila said: “Finland has a lot to offer in digital infrastructure and cost-efficient health care and well-being solutions. I am very happy that our countries share this common interest in bringing new solutions for global health challenges. Many of our problems are common, like diabetes and cancer,” she added, while referring to an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) signed by the two companies during her trip.
Spelling out the salient features of the MoU, she pointed out that Finland’s Commit Company, which provides a comprehensive IT solution for breast cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, bowel cancer, and retinopathy, has signed an MoU with a Saudi company on the sidelines of the ministerial visit. In terms of bilateral cooperation, she said that she has invited the deputy minister of labor and social development to visit Finland.
She said she was happy about her visits to several Saudi facilities including the Riyadh-based King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, and King Fahad Medical City. The talks among top Saudi and Finnish officials, as well as exchange of visits, are being organized within the framework of a comprehensive MoU signed by the Kingdom and Finland in August last year.
Asked about the patients going to Finland from Saudi Arabia for treatment, Mattila said that Finland has received some cancer patients from the Gulf countries. “There was some sort of collaboration with the Kingdom’s King Fahd Hospital,” said the minister, adding that she will also travel to the UAE, where she will look for further collaborations.


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 3 min 5 sec ago
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.