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Saudi Arabia draws up contingency plans for Haj

RIYADH — The Saudi Ministry of Health has drawn up a coordinated contingency plan to deal with emergency situations that might arise during this year’s Haj season. According to an official from the MoH, the team will be composed of more than 100 doctors and around 250 paramedics will work in various places in the holy cities to help pilgrims receive immediate emergency medical treatment. The plan is also geared to attend to natural calamities such as floods, earth slips and crowd congestion, Arab Newsreported.

The ministry has deployed 80 fully-equipped ambulances and 55 mini ambulances to wade through crowds to treat and transport sick pilgrims. The mini ambulances, which are also fully equipped, are meant for transportation to the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, he said, adding that there are some 25 ambulances and 10 more mini-mobile medical vehicles stationed in Makkah to serve the pilgrims in that part of the holy city.

He pointed out that the medical personnel in the team were chosen from among experienced cadres from various disciplines in all parts of the Kingdom. They are also trained in emergency work to cope, renal and hypertension, dehydrated and accidents among patients.

The GPS-enabled mini-ambulances are fully equipped with state-of-the art medical apparatus to handle emergency and ICU patients. In addition, the ministry has detailed a total of 13 ambulances at a strategic point in Makkah to move patients in emergency situations.

Last year, the ministry distributed some 42 ambulances to all parts of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The ministry has also deployed a fleet of motorcycles to reach patients in places where regular vehicles cannot find their way due to congestion.

In 2011, a total of 2,500 patients were ferried to various clinics and hospitals with the help of these mobile vehicles, and the medical team treated more than 15,000 pilgrims in need of emergency treatment.

Around 24 medical teams supervised by eight doctors worked around the clock to serve patients in Makkah. In addition, 17 health clinics and 12 medical teams have been stationed to supervise the movement of pilgrims in the stoning area.

This year, the ministry is focusing on food poisoning. Pilgrims have been asked not to keep their cooked food for more than two hours to avoid food poisoning. They have also been requested to wash fruits and green leaves before consumption. Meat and vegetables should not be washed together during cooking preparations.

Personal hygiene and hygienic cooking, storing, transporting and serving methods are important to avoid diarrhea and vomiting, food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid and cholera. Hands should be washed before eating. Disposable shaving kits should be used.

Wearing masks made of cloth during the performance of various Haj rituals will help prevent respiratory infections such as colds, coughs, sore throats and pneumonia. Covering the face with a towel while sleeping in congested rooms is also advised to avoid respiratory infections.
Diagnosed cases of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, migraine, epilepsy, skin diseases, psychiatric illnesses, and gastric ulcer should be properly controlled with appropriate treatment.

Meanwhile, Dr. Saleh Al-Mazrou, undersecretary to logistics and engineering affairs, said that health officials have been given special training to handle emergency situations such as fires, floods and evacuation. The MoH has special cars, which will be employed to handle firefighting incidents.

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