Al-Falih outlines Health Ministry’s rapid response during Haj 2015
Al-Falih outlines Health Ministry’s rapid response during Haj 2015
In a report on the Health Ministry’s activities leading up to, and during, Haj 2015, he noted that a thorough investigation into the causes of the tragedy is underway at the direction of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.
The report outlines the major incidents impacting this year’s Haj, including preventive health care preparations undertaken to support the pilgrimage and the care provided to all pilgrims as well as those directly affected by the crane crash and the stampede.
“Tracking, analyzing and reporting on Haj care is an important management process which ensures that effective actions continue to improve and that improvement areas are addressed,” Al-Falih said. “We take this obligation very seriously,” he wrote in the report.
The report has outlined the ministry’s response to the crane collapse before the Haj and the extensive precautionary measures to safeguard pilgrims against communicable diseases and the quick emergency response to the tragic stampede. He also commended medical professionals and emergency response teams for their efforts throughout the period.
“Thanks to our readiness and combined expertise, including lessons learned from the recent crane collapse, we were able to activate care teams immediately and provide for the injured, utilizing all available medical and other resources. In coordination with other government sectors, the Health Ministry successfully contained the accident and dedicated all its human and technical resources to both responding to the accident and extending all necessary care to the victims.”
Despite the impact of the two accidents, the clinical care capacity of the national medial system was not affected, he said. "We currently maintain 700+ standard care beds and 90+ intensive care beds in hospitals across the Haj area that are able to provide continuing care for other patients despite the surge in care for emergency victims."
Al-Falih noted that an Emergency Response Center was set up at Mina Hospital where he, along with ministry personnel, directed emergency plans in real time throughout the crisis along with officials from Civil Defense and the Saudi Red Crescent Authority.
“More than 250 physicians, nurses and medics were immediately on site to evaluate and treat the injured,” Al-Falih reported. “At the same time, the hospitals receiving the pilgrims were supported by increased staffing from specialized medical facilities across the Kingdom.”
He said an encampment near Mina was converted to a field care center where initial medical screening and assessment took place prior to patient transport to specialized hospitals. He noted that 52 medical cases were transported by helicopter to specialized treatment sites and that more than 1,500 international calls were dealt with in order to provide additional information.
To address the emergencies resulting from the stampede, in-patients in stable medical condition at all nearby hospitals were relocated to appropriate facilities in order to provide close proximity care for all the emergency victims, he said. "Medical teams were deployed and coordinated seamlessly across government sectors, such as the National Guard, Armed Forces and Public Security Hospitals to ensure the entire universe of medial care was available to care for everyone in need," said Al-Falih.
The threat of communicable diseases and epidemics is always a concern when large numbers of people gather, and the Health Ministry conducted health inspections of all visiting pilgrims to minimize risk. More than 1.3 million pilgrims were checked at 15 health surveillance centers set up at land, sea and air ports. Beyond just health assessment, the teams delivered preventative care to thousands of pilgrims by administering more than 400,000 doses of meningitis and polio vaccines.
For the first time, an early-warning health monitoring system was activated. It successfully reported suspected communicable diseases which resulted in immediate isolation and care for the affected patients while preventing further infection.
Other firsts this season included an epidemiological investigation unit and an environmental health program, which monitored food and water to ensure proper storage methods and temperatures to prevent food poisoning. Health awareness programs also were available in eight different languages.
Al-Falih put the toll of the Mina stampede at 769 dead and 934 injured.
All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today
JEDDAH: Around 2 million pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land from outside and inside the Kingdom in preparation to set out from Makkah for Mina.
They will retrace the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and spend the Tarwiyah Day on Sunday in Mina. Here they will make final preparations for the Standing (Wuquf) at Arafat, which marks the climax of the annual pilgrimage, on Monday.
To be able to serve the pilgrims and enable them to perform Hajj rituals with ease and comfort, the government and private sectors concerned with Hajj and pilgrim affairs intensify their preparations, under the direct supervision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to King Salman, the governor of Makkah region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, and followed up by his deputy, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar.
The Ministry of Health will provide intensive and continuous health services supported by skillful human cadres and state-of-the-art medical technologies, in order to provide the best health services for pilgrims. The Ministry of Health has employed a total of 29,495 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide extensive health care to the pilgrims.
According to the ministry, its manpower during the Hajj consists of 780 consultants in various medical specializations, 1,248 specialists; 2,718 general practitioners; 1,428 pharmacists; 3,553 nurses; 1,173 technicians and lab specialists; 198 specialists in nutrition; 5,587 administrators; 165 engineers; and 1,491 ambulance drivers.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will operate and maintain all technical devices and systems of lighting, air-conditioning and ventilation, sound and control systems, cameras, communication devices and electrical stairs, buildings and libraries in the Two Holy Mosques.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the basement and ground floor and many other areas. Thousands of fans have been installed in the Two Holy Mosques and their yards.
The area around the Two Holy Mosques has been equipped with more than 8,441 toilets, as well as more than 6,000 ablution units. All power supply lines have been prepared to make sure there is power 24/7.
More than 10,000 male and female employees will be available to follow up on work and monitor it during Ramadan, in addition to a large number of cleaners.
Among the services also provided by the Presidency are translation of Friday sermons into 10 languages, organization of various scientific programs, and competitions.
A total of 210 doors in the Grand Mosque and 100 doors in the Prophet’s Mosque have been prepared, as well as 28 escalators in the Grand Mosque and four escalators in the Prophet’s Mosque. There are 38 doors for people with special needs and seven for women.
The Saudi Red Crescent deployed 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulances, 20 motorbikes, and more than 1,861 people to work in the ranges of Makkah and Madinah.
There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, 15 temporary emergency centers, supported with more than 87 ambulances and 653 paramedics.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs mobilized its human and mechanical capabilities to enable pilgrims to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment by employing more than 26,000 individuals and 717 mechanisms to implement the hygiene plan in Makkah and the holy sites, as well as specialized field teams to control 33,069 food facilities in Makkah.
Civil defense teams will be deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases, where the injuries will be transferred using stretchers and wheelchairs to several medical evacuation sites inside and outside the mosque.
These teams will also be carrying out extraction and rescue operations inside the Holy Mosque and the surrounding area, in addition to providing urgent first aid, and transferring critical cases to the nearest hospitals and health centers, in coordination with the Red Crescent teams around the Holy Mosque. The Hajj security forces leaderships announced their readiness to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
The General Command of the Air General Security is supported by all the security services and various government sectors.
In preparation for the Hajj season, the Saudi General Security Aviation Command announced that it has started implementing the first phase of its security plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom. The aviation command will commence security operations over the holy sites, where special helicopters will monitor the activities surrounding the Hajj season this year. The planes are stationed in the designated locations in Makkah and Madinah from various bases to carry out the tasks assigned to them, namely traffic and security, logistical support for other security bodies, humanitarian services and the monitoring of pilgrims not following the rules.