Saudi doctors join frontline battle in French hospitals against coronavirus

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The Saudi doctors say they are ready to offer their services to all doctors or personnel who ask for them, even if it is not in their field of expertise. (Shutterstock)
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Dr. Qusay Mandoora is a 32-year-old Saudi urologist at Pitie Salpetriere hospital. (Supplied)
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Dr. Ola Binhimd, from Jeddah, is in her final year as a plastic surgeon and reconstruction resident at the Necker Pediatric Hospital in Paris. (Supplied)
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Dr. Abdu Al-Khayri, a neurosurgeon from Qunfudah, is currently on the staff of the Rothschild Hospital in France. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Saudi doctors join frontline battle in French hospitals against coronavirus

  • 50 Saudi doctors in the country are currently taking part in internship and specialization programs

PARIS: Saudi doctors helping to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in French hospitals have lifted the lid on life under lockdown in France.

The medics have been taking part in internship and specialization programs, living in France with their families on Saudi government-backed scholarships which pay for their training.
There are 50 Saudi doctors currently in France as part of the program and three of them spoke to Arab News about their experiences amid the virus pandemic in the country where to date there has been 44,550 recorded cases of infection resulting in 3,024 deaths.
Dr. Abdu Al-Khayri, a neurosurgeon from Qunfudah, is currently on the staff of the Rothschild Hospital. The 31-year-old speaks fluent French after spending a year learning the language prior to starting his medical studies.
“Regardless of our specialties, we are all facing the coronavirus crisis just as French doctors and our other colleagues are. We are proud to be on the team facing this crisis. I salute the ER doctors, the specialists in infectious diseases, and anesthesiologists who are all at the forefront, as well as the entire medical staff for their courage, their efforts, and the risks they take.
“As a neurosurgeon I work every day. If a patient arrives and needs urgent care, we intervene according to the procedures established by the French Ministry of Health to deal with the virus. Operations that are not urgent are called off at the moment.”

HIGHLIGHT

The doctors highly rated the French medical system and said their experiences working in France had been crucial to the development of their careers.

Dr. Qusay Mandoora, a 32-year-old Saudi urologist at Pitie Salpetriere hospital, told Arab News: “During the coronavirus outbreak, we offer our services to all doctors or personnel who ask for them, even if it is not in our field of expertise.
“We follow the official protocols and take the necessary safety measures. We also try to cut down on our trips to the hospital in order to avoid exposure to, and possible spread of, COVID-19.”
Dr. Ola Binhimd, from Jeddah, arrived in France in January 2015. She is in her final year as a plastic surgeon and reconstruction resident at the Necker Pediatric Hospital in Paris and was due to finish her internship there at the end of April, but it has been extended to the end of May due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I currently work in a pediatric hospital, so cases of COVID-19 are less frequent here, though seven children suffering from the virus were recently admitted.
“The hospital made a number of changes in order to deal with this crisis. Before these cases were admitted, two operating rooms were ready every day and they were used to perform operations that were not urgent. Both of them have now been re-purposed and are not used except for emergency operations.
“Anesthesiologists now check on patients and see if any of them have a fever. Visits to the hospital are prohibited and the child’s parents are the only ones allowed in his or her room,” she added.
Meanwhile, Al-Khayri began studying neurosurgery in Riyadh at King Faisal Hospital and was then accepted in France to study for a diploma in his specialist area.
“I arrived in France in 2013 and studied French for a year. I then did a five-year training course for all specialties in different French hospitals, before obtaining my medical degree in 2019.

SPEEDREAD

The doctors say they are proud to be on the team facing this crisis. They pay tribute to the ER doctors, the specialists in infectious diseases, and anesthesiologists who are all at the forefront, as well as the entire medical staff for their courage, their efforts, and the risks they take.

“I spent a year in the Kremlin Bicêtre hospital, 12 months at Pitie Salpetriere, and one year at Mondor. I finished the required studies and am now a resident surgeon with the title of fellow or neurosurgery specialist at the Rothschild Foundation Hospital.
“I came here as part of an exchange program between Saudi Arabia and France. In the program 50 Saudi doctors study their specializations in France. In neurosurgery, there are only one or two positions open for Saudi surgeons every year.”
Al-Khayri is grateful that King Salman, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and the Ministry of Health have allowed him to work on his specialization in France. He is also very thankful for what the Saudi government does for students in Saudi Arabia and abroad.
Mandoora said: “I did all my medical courses in Saudi Arabia in English and then took a one-year French course at the Alliance Francaise in Paris. Then I was able to begin my medical and surgical specialization which is in treating kidneys and related problems.
“Our government, which financed our studies, also allowed our families to join us in France. I was a resident for five years in addition to a year of training. Saudi residents in France relocate to a different hospital every six months.”

He highly rated the French medical system and said his experiences working in France had been crucial to the development of his career. “The more patients we treat, the more we learn.” He added that the French system of treating people in public and semi-private hospitals, had allowed him to benefit from dealing with a wide range of medical conditions.
On his personal life, he said: “I am currently in my seventh year of study, so we definitely have friends here by now. My wife is studying marketing at INSEEC University in Paris, and we have a son. I feel completely integrated with the team of residents at the French hospital.”


Once he graduates, Mandoora plans to return home and work in Saudi Arabia.
Binhimd, who studied medicine in Jordan and Egypt and graduated from Egypt, said: “I did an externship at Hotel Dieu in Beirut and then returned to Saudi Arabia where I worked for the government in the Ministry of Defense.
“I also worked at the King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah for two years and received a scholarship from the hospital. I have now completed my internship in plastic surgery and reconstruction after six months of French lessons.”
She added: “I am currently working in the field of plastic surgery for children. That includes working with those born with deformities and with those who have accidents such as dog bites. These accidents are common nowadays because children are confined to their homes.
“This is my 10th semester as a resident. I have one semester left at St. Louis Hospital in Paris and in November 2020, I will move to the Gustave Roussy Institute.”


Saudis head out as lockdown eases

Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

Saudis head out as lockdown eases

  • First day of phased reopening sees visitors flock to waterfronts and malls

JEDDAH/RIYADH: As the 24-hour-curfew period ended, residents of Saudi Arabia headed back outside on the first day of the government’s three-phase plan to transition back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as people rushed to take advantage of the newly relaxed measures, streets quickly became crowded and several observers noticed that many were failing to observe social-distancing measures.

Prince Abdulrahman bin Mosaad tweeted: “For there to be traffic in the streets is natural after canceling the 24-hour curfew, but what’s abnormal and unbelievable is the amount of people underestimating the necessity of putting on a face mask and a pair of gloves and keeping a two-meter space between people crowding at stores. This is only the first day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Shawwal 29 (June 21) will be the day we go back to normal.”

In a follow-up tweet, Prince Abdulrahman reminded people that the pandemic does not have a cure or a vaccine yet, and wondered whether people would need to lose a loved one before they came to appreciate the severity of the situation.

University lecturer, Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani (@fattah53), agreed, tweeting: “Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. It’s very simple; don’t go out unless it’s necessary. If you absolutely have to, follow precautionary measures from wearing a mask to keeping an acceptable distance between you and others.”

Abdulaziz Al-Omar (@11a_alomar) also replied with suggestions. “It’s important to monitor and penalize facilities and shops that do not follow precautionary regulations, as well as fines against those who don’t wear a mask and don’t keep their distance from others,” he tweeted.

The hashtag #JeddahNow was quickly trending on Twitter in response to the number of people leaving their homes unnecessarily.

A number of users suggested that individuals neglecting social distancing and going out in public without a mask and gloves would be “more afraid of a SR10,000 fine than they are of the pandemic.”

However, many thought that people were overreacting to the traffic around the city’s corniche.

Sa’ad Mughram (@saad_mghrm) tweeted: “Don’t blame people for traffic. There are families that have been pressed together for three months in small apartments and reef houses. It’s their right to go out and see the sky on a short car ride.”

He added: “Overcrowding stores needs to be addressed, but things can be dealt with calmly, without overreacting and perfectionism from some.”

Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. 

Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani , University lecturer

Some hailed the efforts made by several popular stores around the Kingdom that are enforcing social distancing, such as Madinah’s Starbucks, where a photo circulating on social media showed people lined up with the recommended space between them, demonstrating what was described as “classy behavior.”

Abdullah Al-Humaid, (@abn_humaid) commented: “It’s wonderful to see such awareness displayed in our society. These are people maintaining social distancing while wearing gloves and face masks.”

Meanwhile, many headed onto the streets of Riyadh looking to regain a sense of normality. “Of course, I went out. I took my mom and sister and drove to the nearest mall to run some errands,” 26-year-old Sarah Al-Jasser told Arab News.

However, Al-Jasser said she was unable to enter the shops inside the mall because of long queues. “I was surprised that people were out this early. We were at the mall by 9:30 a.m. and didn’t expect it to be this crowded,” she said.

By 2:30 p.m. most shops and malls were already closed and empty of customers and shopkeepers, abiding by the 3 p.m. curfew.

Rayed Mustafa, 33, told Arab News he believes the situation is still unsafe: “Just because the country is opening up doesn’t mean it’s safe to go out.”  However, that did not stop him from leaving  the house. “I pulled an all-nighter, put on my face mask and gloves and hit the streets at 6:30 a.m. to cruise the city.”

He added that he stayed in his car and was merely hoping to get some fresh air for his mental well-being. “I’ve been confined in a very small apartment for over a month,” he said. “I needed that change of scenery.” 

He said he made sure to abide by the safety and health measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, and refrained from mingling with people.

Mustafa was taken aback by the number of people he saw on the streets. 

“One of the main streets in Riyadh was filled to the brim — some celebrating, others going out for coffee,” he added.

Billboards have been placed around the Kingdom reminding people to comply with the recommended precautions in order to ensure their safety.