Expat Focus Healthcare Update 30 May 2016

Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia

A non-native Saudi caught Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Riyadh last week, according to the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The 31-year-old expatriate was living in Riyadh when diagnosed with the virus. A 24-year old native Saudi, who lives in Al-Hafoof, caught it at the same time, likely because of her contact with camels. Sabq, a local Arabic daily, noted that both patients are being treated and are in a stable condition.Coronavirus was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to various countries including the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Victims, who range from several months to older than 99, develop severe acute respiratory illness. This includes fever, cough, and rasping breath. About three or four of every 10 patients have died. The virus mostly develops from living in countries in, or near, Saudi Arabia. Arab News estimates that 38% of the infection comes from touching or living close to camels. Others can get it by caring for, or living with, infected individuals. Gulf Digital News reports that 33% of patients catch the virus from in-health facilities. Saudi Ministry of Health statistics calculate that more than 1,280 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus over the past five years since 2010 and that 550 people have died.

The CDC states that untreated MERS symptoms can be fatal. Severe symptoms include pneumonia and kidney failure. Individuals with comorbid conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, and with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable.

Scientists are working on a vaccine, but, in the meantime, if you live in, or are traveling to the UAE, you can prevent yourself from becoming infected by regularly washing your hand with soap and following other simple methods described on the CDC Prevention & Treatment website. If you suspect that you or someone else has been exposed to the virus, see People at Increased Risk for MERS for help.

Expats try to slash plastic in Hong Kong

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A group of expatriate women living in Hong Kong banded with a local resident and urged friends on Facebook and Instagram to petition supermarkets to reduce their plastic wrapping.

Sandra Carvajal, an expatriate from Colombia, described how she had lived in Hong Kong 11 years and seen an increasing use of plastic to the point that some shopkeepers now wrap each fruit or vegetable in it.

On Thursday, May 19, Sandra posted on her Facebook page:

I'm promoting a campaign for supermarkets to minimize plastic wrapping! I'd like to invite you to write to your local supermarkets and let them know your opinion and your concerns about the environment, invite them to contribute minimizing the use of plastic specially to wrap fruits and vegetables! Together we can make the difference!

Fifty-two followers responded. Vivian Guan said she was tired of recycling all the plastic boxes and wraps for each apple and orange!

The named supermarkets told the South China Morning Post that they use biodegradable packaging to preserve vitamins and food quality. City Super affirmed that it uses a range of packaging methods to protect its high-end produce. Park’n Shop said it sheathes its organic fruit and vegetables only during delivery to separate its special produce from conventional items. Dairy Farm said it uses plastic only when necessary.

Cristina Gallio noted that stores which over-packaged were mainly those that served Western expatriates or tourists.

Last month, a Change.org petition, which was organized by expat Megan Tanner, gathered 2,418 supporters. It was entitled “Stop wrapping herbs, vegetables, fruit and household items in plastic and Styrofoam” and petitioned the Park N’Shop, Jardine, and Hutchinson supermarkets to “stop creating so much rubbish and start thinking about how our actions affect both the health of our environment and the health of our fellow citizens”.

Environmentalists say that the overuse of plastic stuffs Hong Kong’s landfills, takes a long time to decompose, and harms wildlife.

Expat doctors and nurses to be tested for hepatitis in UAE

The National Staff issued a press release on May 18th, which said that certain expatriate employees who work for government hospitals and medical facilities will be slated for vaccines for Hepatitis B and C during the coming month.

Workers who will receive the vaccines will be ear nose and throat surgeons, as well as doctors who treat heart, optical, kidney, orthopedic or urinary tract conditions. Expatriate nurses who take blood samples will be included. Free screenings will be done at the Emirates Red Crescent hepatology clinic in Sharjah. The Ministry of Health and Prevention has extended working hours to accommodate the influx of visitors.

Workers who test positive will have to look for other non-medical jobs, and their sponsors will be notified.

About 600,000 people die each year with Hepatitis B, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued in 2013. Another 350,000 to 500,000 people die from hepatitis C-related diseases each year. Saudi Ministry of Health statistics say that up to 20,000 Emiratis and approximately 18,000 expatriates may be infected.

Dr. Hussein Abdel Rahman Rand, assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for the health centers and clinics sector, mentioned that vaccinating the workers who have the most contact with the patients could prevent the disease from spreading.

Expat burials in Indonesia

British citizen Scott Roddie, 52, died in Indonesia five months ago and waits to be buried. Earlier this week, the Batam Authority (BPK) Hospital fretted that his body is rotting in their morgue.

Roddie died during medical treatment at Awal Bros Hospital. The hospital called the police and Interpol. No one responded, so it dispatched the body to the Batam Authority (BPK) Hospital on February 10.

Roddie, who worked for a shipyard company in Batam, was born in Dundee, but an anonymous source told the Jakarta Post that Roddie had distanced himself from his family. The British Embassy in Jakarta likewise seemed disinterested in helping Indonesia resolve the problem. Meanwhile, Roddie’s body is decomposing and costing the hospital about US$1,500 a day.

BPK Hospital spokesperson Wawan Setiawan told the Jakarta Post that they treated Roddie with special care because he was a foreigner, “According to our existing procedures, we bury a body if no family member picks it up within a month. But this is for Indonesians.”

Head of the morgue Rian Narulita mentioned that a frozen body can last in the freezer for up to six months as long as its door is kept closed. In Roddie’s case, the door has been opened various times, which means his body can deteriorate within the next three months.

Even if that were not the case, Roddie’s body could not be transferred since BPK Hospital has only eight body mortuary refrigerators, aside from which it is the only facility on Riau Islands that has a body refrigerator altogether.

Oman Blood Donors campaign for blood

An Indian expatriate helped start a blood donation center in Oman in September of last year. Dozens of donors gathered to give blood this Monday and Tuesday at the Central Blood Bank in Muscat.

Sophia Godfrey helped launch Oman Blood Donors (OBD) in Sept. 2015, just in time for the famous blood shortage at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH) in November, 2015. The medical center had run short of 4,000 blood bags and caused a backup of surgeries as a result.

Currently, around 3,500 OBD volunteers promote their not-for-profit organization on social media and create videos to request blood.
Oman Blood Donors organizes campaigns and informs the public how to give blood. It accepts select individuals. Its rules after giving blood are simple: Rest, drink fluids, keep bandages on for five hours, and alleviate dizziness by sitting with your head between your knees. Enjoy knowing that you helped save lives. Come again in three months.

Last year, the site answered the plea of nine-year-old Ra’ed al Nakheili, when the boy, who was biking with his friends, was knocked over by a speeding truck. Ra’ed fell into a coma and needed the rare B-negative blood type to survive. OBD circulated the plea. Before the end of the day, OBD had received 500 calls from Asians and Omanis who wanted to donate blood. At the time of print, the boy remained in a critical condition.

Faiza Ahmed Hussain from Oman Blood Donors told the Oman Times, “A majority of [people] donate blood when they have an emergency. But we feel that it should be the other way round. We should donate blood regularly so that the blood banks have sufficient back up when an emergency situation arises.”

Qatar eases procedure to bury repatriates

Qatar opened a comprehensive division to ease and accelerate procedures for repatriates who die in the UAE and want to be buried in their homelands.
The Humanitarian Services Office was formally opened by HE Staff Major General Saad bin Jassim al-Khulaifi, general director of Public Security.

In the past, families of the deceased spent around one week visiting at least seven government offices in order to take the body out of the country. Offices included the ministries of Public Health, Foreign Affairs, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), the General Authority of Customs, Ministry of Interior (MoI), Public Prosecution and Qatar Airways.

The system was so tedious that Expatwoman.com mentioned that, if you were related to the deceased and trying to repatriate the body, the foreign procedures could aggravate your stress and pain.

Now, Qatar’s Humanitarian Services Office clusters these offices under one roof making its services accessible seven days a week from 7am to 9pm. Applicants go through a one-window system to process their requests and fill out pertinent forms. The whole procedure is completed by the end of the day.

The process is the following: The Hamad Medical Corporation issues the death certificate and lists the death in its records. The Ministry of Public Health distributes relevant certificates. Qatar Airways issues the cargo documents and tickets for the persons accompanying the body, while the Consular Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs makes sure that the repartition process succeeds. Waiting time is cut by 95%.

Best of all, previous fees for filling out lengthy paperwork have been cancelled.

The Office, which is managed by the Unified Services Department of the Ministry of Interior (MoI), can be contacted on Qatar’s Premier Information Guide.

Tanzania University waits for President Charter approval to hire expats

Kampala International University (KIU) waits for President of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, to legitimize the school’s existence in order hire expatriate lecturers and implement its programs.

Five months ago, the University petitioned Magufuli to sign its charter which would give it official permission to exist. This Monday, KIU Vice Chancellor Dr. Mohammed Mpezamihigo told East African business weekly, AllAfrica.com, that they have yet to hear from the President.

In the meantime, Mpezamihigo petitioned the Government of Uganda to help them by allowing expatriate medical specialists to lecture in its university. He stressed the need for such teachers and asked Uganda to at least waive visa fees for certain qualified expatriates.

The University is known for its quality laboratories and high system of education. Formerly a sub-division of the College of Kampala University in Uganda, the University came into its own, built laboratories and won accreditation from the National Council for High Education.

As part of its plans for development, Kampal International University intends to deliver 25% of its courses online.

At the moment, plans for development are at a standstill. The new President of Tanzania has still to acknowledge its existence.

Mowasalat opens top-notch medical clinic for expat workers

On May 17th, a new Medical Commission unit opened in Mowasalat to give quality medical treatment and prevention to its 7,300 Mowasalat expatriate employees.

The Medical Commission of Mowasalat-Karwa offers top-notch facilities that include a radiology and Occupational Health clinic, ENT, pre-employment medical checkup and cutting-edge services for annual medical checkup. The unit contains consultation rooms, isolation units, a well-equipped pharmacy and two first aid units stationed at two points in the city. Spokesmen stressed that the Medical Center follows international medical standards and uses the most recent technology.

Mowasalat Medical Commission currently services around 200 visitors a day but intends to expand to 450 per day and, in the future, to the general public.

Minister of Transport and Communications, H E Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti told the media that “[The center aims] to reflect the State’s interest in showing care and provide highest level of services to the employees in the expatriate community. The workers will get all the attention that is needed in the field of health and will be provided with the services of highest standards.” The clinic reports to the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Interior.


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