The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts in combating Corona virus during the hajj season, lauding the Kingdom’s provision of healthcare services for pilgrims in hajj this year.
On its website, WHO said that the Kingdom faces great organizational challenges to provide medical services to more than two million pilgrims. It stated that hajj rituals go back to the seventh century and that as a result, the Kingdom has accumulated centuries of experience.
Preparation for hajj began with lessons learned from the previous hajj season; in total 372,000 needed medical attention.
All medical treatments are provided free of charge, including costly operations, such as open-heart surgery, burn treatment, and medication for food poisoning. WHO added that the Ministry of Health has prepared 25 hospitals for hajj services that can accommodate 5,250 patients, in addition to the 141 health centers in the four main hajj areas.
The Ministry has also built an emergency hospital in Mina that operates solely during hajj season and remains closed throughout the rest of the year. The Mina hospital has 190 beds and treats between 10,000-12,000 patients a day.
In addition, the Ministry has readied 95 ambulances as mobile intensive care units. Each ambulance has a doctor and a nurse and is equipped with the latest technology to enable work in crowded areas.
WHO pointed out that, for the fourth year in a row, the Ministry of Health has invited experts from WHO to monitor, evaluate and provide technical assistance when needed.
The Ministry has also intensified its educational and awareness efforts and has adopted a free telephone number for pilgrims to call in the event of a medical problem.
The organization also stated that the Kingdom has a large amount of experience in dealing with crowds.
The Ministry distributes educational health brochures in 10 languages and has intensified its monitoring of incoming pilgrims to guard against possible MERS-CoV cases. Mina hospital has been equipped with a new laboratory to expedite tests of any suspected cases.
This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Oct. 17, 2013.