Hygiene pledge

The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health, in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has signed a pledge to combat the spread of nosocomial infections, which affect millions of patients each year. The pledge – the Global Patient Safety Challenge with the theme: “Clean Care is Safer Care” – was signed at the Patient Safety Congress held in Dubai in September.

“Clean Care is Safer Care” emphasises the critical role of hand hygiene in controlling the spread of hospital acquired infections. The Global Patient Safety Challenge brings together the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Healthcare with ongoing work on blood safety, injection and immunisation safety, safer clinical practices, and safe water, sanitation and waste management.

At the event, Humaid Al Qatami, UAE Minister of Health signed a statement committing the government to address healthcare-associated infection in the country through the World Health Organisation’s Global Patient Safety Challenge. Participants at be signing included Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer of the UK and chair of the World Alliance for Patient Safety, Dr Hamad Al Manes, Saudi Minister of Health, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeah, CEO Saudi National Guard Health Affairs, Dr Ziad Memish, director of the GCC Center for Infection Control and Professor Didier Pittet, leader of the Global Patient Safety Challenge.

Qatami said: “Healthcareassociated infections cause considerable suffering and, in many situations, can be avoided. We want to see action taken to reduce the impact on patients within the UAE public health sector. However, it is everyone’s responsibility to improve hygiene standards throughout the health services, including hospital staff, patients and the general public.” The UAE is the third country in the Gulf Cooperation Council to sign the WHO initiative following Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Oman is expected to sign the pledge later this year.

Bahrain hearing plan

Bahrain’s Daily News reports that the kingdom will soon launch the Middle East’s first programme to detect hearing disorders among infants.

Children will be checked for hearing defects within a few days of birth at health centres in the kingdom, according to Dr Ahmed Jamal head of the health ministry’s Cochlear Transplants Committee and ear, nose and throat consultant surgeon at Salmaniya Medical Complex.

“Detecting such a disorder within a few days is the easiest and it is also the easiest to treat,” he told the newspaper. He said immediately following detection of a hearing disorder treatment will begin and may result ultimately in a cochlear implant. An average of one in every 1,000 newborns suffers from severe hearing impairment, Dr Jamal said.

The earlier hearing impaired children receive the cochlear implants the better, as they can then get early speech therapy assistance which coincides with the normal age for language acquisition. “If the implants are delayed, then they may be slow in developing their basic communication skills,” said Dr Jamal.

Neotech alliance

Neotech Medical Equipment, one of the region’s leading healthcare solutions providers, has announced the signing of a partnership agreement with O-Two Medical Technologies, a world leader in Emergency Services.

Under the agreement Dubai-based Neotech will distribute Canadian company O-Two’s complete range of emergency respiratory care devices, from their flagship CAREvent range of resuscitators and automatic transport ventilators through to their CPR, airway management, oxygen therapy and burn relief products in the region.

Commenting on the new partnership, Ron Birrell, vice president Sales & Marketing of O-Two Medical Technologies said: “It is for the first time in the history of our company that we have exclusively tied up a distributor to represent our product lines.

Neotech will represent us in eight countries of the Middle East region.” Abdalla Dalab, general manager of Neotech Medical Equipment, said: “The alliance with O-Two will reinforce Neotech’s presence in the medical equipment market in the region.

The Canadian firm is a world leader in Emergency products, and its products and solutions are used by scores of hospitals and medical institutions worldwide.

It is our privilege to introduce OTwo’s products in the market here.” Among the first products that Neotech will introduce is O-Two’s Smart Bag. Considered a revolutionary product, the Smart Bag is designed to allow the provision of consistent ventilations, while almost completely eliminating the risks associated with conventional bag valve mask (BVM) ventilation.

Iran-German link

The first Iranian-German workshop on medical engineering – The Avechina- Roentgen Collaboration – took place in Munich, Germany, from 8-15 September this year, reports Mahssa Mohegh, the editor of Iran’s Med & Lab magazine.

The programme was designed to promote scientific and cultural exchange between Iranian and German biomedical academics and students. It also aimed to establish common scientific fields on which to collaborate.

Professor Nassir Navab, the main co-ordinator of the workshop said: “Many Iranian students go to the United States of America and Canada to continue their studies. We hope to bring some of them to Germany.” The workshop was supported by Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) also known as the German Academic Exchange Service.

The programme included topics such as: A Multi-Stage Approach for CT Colon Image Segmentation; Automated Segmentation of Medical Images (Brain, Prostate, Liver, Bone, Cartilages, Teeth); Motion Correction for PET; An Introduction to Bioinformatic and Gene Expression Data Analysis; as well as a live surgery workshop.

Saudi to screen docs

Saudi Arabia’s Arab News reported in mid-September that doctors coming to work in the kingdom would be screened to ensure they are professionally qualified.

The newspaper quoted Health Minister Dr Hamad Al-Manie as saying such a requirement is imperative to curtail the growing incidence of medical errors.

He said plans were being developed to establish a national body to check the qualifications of medical professionals seeking employment in the kingdom. Dr Hamad Al-Manie said medical error was largely the result of misdiagnosis, misuse of medical apparatus and deviation from standard medical procedures.

New osteoporosis tool

GE Healthcare has installed a cutting-edge osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment system, the Lunar iDXA, at the King Khalid University Hospital, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

This is the first installation of this system in the Middle East. Unveiled late last year, the Lunar iDXA is an advanced bone mineral density diagnostic system specially designed to help clinicians detect, diagnose and monitor treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is widely prevalent in the Middle East and Africa region according to studies by the International Osteoporosis Foundation. According to Dr David Ergun, chief scientist and director global technology for GE Healthcare’s Lunar business, the system can also determine regional body fat composition, which is an important indicator of risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Mahmoud El-Desouki, pofessor and consultant, Nuclear Medicine, King Khalid University Hospital, said: “With the new highdefinition digital detector of 64 elements, hi-speed scanning and quality imaging, we can now get superior images.

The main advantage of this advanced technology is that fractures of the dorsolumbar spine can now be easily detected. We have now stopped referring patients with osteoporosis and back pain for x-rays and instead rely on iDXA imaging.” The iDXA system used Lunar Prodigy, regarded as the gold standard for assisting clinicians in the detection of osteoporosis.

Afghan polio

Going by initial reports, the one-day strategy on 6 September to control polio in war-torn southern Afghanistan was a success, as none of the teams were stopped from their work and there were no obstacles or interference.

About 2,000 volunteers went house-to-house in four high-risk districts – Arghandab, Khakrez and Spin Boldak districts in Kandahar Province, and in Lashkar Gah of Helmand to vaccinate more than 120,000 children under the age of five.

This successful campaign comes after the Ministry of Public Health called on all stakeholders internally and externally to assist in stopping polio transmission by supporting the anti-polio campaigns.

Afghanistan has suffered a set back in polio control this year with 26 confirmed polio cases in southern Afghanistan as compared to four during the same period last year.

Iran AIDS drug

Iranian scientists claim to have discovered a powerful treatment for AIDS. According to IRNA, the Iranian News Agency, Kamran Baqeri Lankarani, the Minister of Health and Medical Education (MoHME) unveiled the breakthrough at the annual meeting of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, held in Isfahan in September.

IRNA failed to give much detail except to say that clinical trials in Iran have shown that if the medication is taken for three months it will remain effective for up to two years, adding that this is in contrast to current AIDS medication which is only effective as long as it is administered.

Mohammad Farhadi, former minister of the MoHME, who served as executive director of the project for “a formula for reinvigorating the immunity system of the body” told IRNA that the project led to the discovery of a formula to control symptoms of AIDS and some other virus-oriented infections.

He said the MoHME had granted permission for clinical trials, following successful studies on animals in the lab.

UAE bird flu

The United Arab Emirates Secretariat of the National Committee for Emergency Response to Bird Flu has launched a mini guide for travellers, according to a report in Gulf News.

The guide entitled, ‘Better Safe than Sorry’, is being distributed at the all the country’s entry points – air, land and sea. The guide, in Arabic, English, German, French and Hindi, targets those departing or arriving from affected areas around the world. It explains what the disease is, its causes and how it started.

It also instructs travellers to refrain from bringing any live birds, poultry, meat, eggs or feathers into the UAE. The guide highlights the emergency hotline 8009990. According to the report the Dubai Municipality, one of the members of the committee, has set up an avian influenza operations room in its Veterinary Section.

The municipality also received, stored and distributed specific amounts of the necessary safety and hygienic equipment to the rest of the committee members, in cooperation with Dubai’s Department of Health and Medical Services.

IFRC winter quake aid

In preparation for the coming Himalayan winter, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) will assist some 13,500 families affected by last year’s massive earthquake in northern Pakistan.

The vulnerable families will be provided with shelter kits and other winter relief items, according to an IRIN News report. “The distribution [of assistance] will start towards mid-November. At the moment, we are procuring the supplies and sorting out related logistical issues,” John Tulloch, an IFRC spokesman, said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

More than 75,000 people died and another 3.5 million were rendered homeless when the devastating earthquake ripped through parts of northern Pakistan on 8 October last year. Nearly 2 million quake survivors were forced to live in tents and makeshift shelters throughout last winter, battling the harsh weather.

Only an estimated one in four quake survivors have started rebuilding their destroyed houses. Tens of thousands are still living in makeshift shelters, many constructed up to a year ago. The IFRC/PRCS’s family assistance package includes 10 corrugated iron sheets, two tarpaulins, one shelter repair tool kit, four quilts, hurricane lamps and a wood burning stove.

Jordan nursing alliance

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Jordanian Nursing Council (JNC) in September launched the first Global Alliance on Nursing and Midwifery Communities of Practice under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Muna Al Hussein of Jordan via a video conference involving nursing and midwifery leaders from around the world.

According Dr Jean Yan, chief scientist for Nursing and Midwifery at WHO, the aim of the Global Alliance on Nursing and Midwifery Communities of Practice is to link 13 million nurses and midwives globally, 6,000 training institutions for nursing and midwifery and 80 government chief nursing and midwifery officers, 40 WHO collaborating centres of nursing and midwifery and 125 professional nursing associations.

HRH Princess Muna said: “Our aim is to drive the network and foster information exchange while developing strategies to address challenges and to identify future resources needed for effective nursing and midwifery development.”

Saudi cancer centre

The first center for early diagnosis of cancer is set open in Riyadh in November, Dr Abdullah ibn Suleiman Al-Amr, chairman of Saudi Cancer Society, a charitable organisation, told Arab News.

The new cancer centre has specialised clinics with advanced medical equipment to diagnose various types of cancers in both men and women. “This will be the first centre to conduct early diagnosis of cancer in the kingdom,” he said.

He told the newspaper that priority will be given to conducting early diagnosis for breast cancer as a result of growing breast cancer cases among Saudi women. Businessman Abdullatif Al-Abdullatif has donated SR8 million (about US$8 million) to meet operation expenses of the centre for a year.

Amr said the Saudi Cancer Society plans to set up an endowment for the society in Riyadh at a cost of SR30 million in order to secure permanent revenue to finance its activities.

Iraqi kids treated

The Daily News of Bahrain reports that nine Iraqi children were to receive cochlear hearing implants at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), late October, early November.

The six boys and three informagirls, aged four to 12 years, underwent preliminary examinations including audiology, speech assessment and radiology tests, by a team of cochlear implant surgery specialists at SMC.

The children will stay at least three months in Bahrain for post-operative treatment and complicated speech therapy, according to the newspaper.

The children are among 50 flown in from war-torn Iraq for free treatment for various illnesses and injuries. The mission is funded by His Majesty King Hamad.

New orthopaedic facilities

The Apollo Medical Centre in Muscat, Oman, has introduced modern facilities for orthopaedic surgeries, including total knee and hip replacement, according to a report in the Times of Oman.

The 40-bedded multispeciality hospital is now equipped with a state-ofthe- art C-Arm machine, which facilitates three dimensional imaging of bone fractures and enables precision surgery.

AMC is one of the few private hospitals in the Sultanate that carries out total knee and hip transplantation for people suffering from osteoarthritis.

AMC’s orthopaedic department carries out deformity corrections due to polio and cerebral palsy as well as treatment for routine orthopaedic cases like fractures and hand injuries, according to the report.

UAE AIDS survey

The UAE is conducting a nationwide survey to find out the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country, according to a 9 October report in Gulf News.

Current estimates put the figure at 500. However, Dr Ahmad Al Haj, internal medicine specialist at Rashid Hospital, Dubai and member of the national HIV committee reckons this figure is inflated due to an overlap when data is gathered from various medical centres.

“Some of the patients switch centres because they are worried about being recognised. We’re currently tracking the real number down. We believe the real figure is fewer than 500,” he told the newspaper. The survey is a joint effort between the Ministry of Health, the Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services and Abu Dhabi General Authority for Health Services.

New alternative med laws

Gulf News reported in September that Dubai’s Department of Health and Medical Services and Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) have formed an alliance to establish new standards for alternative medicine in order to “plug loopholes left by current regulations”.

The two organisations agreed to set up and develop international standards for licensing of specialties, practitioners, products and equipment. Dr Aisha Abdullah, director of planning at DHCC, was quoted as saying that the project would be carried out in phases involving doctors from both parties and consultants in alternative medicine.

It is expected to be complete by 2010, with the first phase completed next year.

Saudi suicides

The Saudi Human Rights Commission has urged the Ministry of Health to take urgent steps to contain the increasing number of suicides, according to a report in Gulf News in September.

The report said Turki Bin Khalid Al Sudairy, chairman of the commission, had proposed to Dr Hamad Al- Manie, Saudi Arabian Minister of Health, that there should be an agency to take care of mentally disturbed persons who show suicidal tendencies.

Turki Bin Khalid Al Sudairy called for special psychiatry clinics and treatment free of charge for the poor. He suggested a tollfree line to enable sufferers to seek remedies for psychiatric problems and highlighted the need for awareness programmes.

According to the report figures released by the Saudi Ministry of Interior four years ago put the number of suicide and suicide attempt cases in the kingdom in excess of 700 a year.

New hospital for Jeddah

Arab News reports that the International Medical Centre, a 3,000-bed, multispecialty private hospital was officially opened in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at the end of October.

The medical centre is being operated in co-operation with Cleveland Clinic in the United States, according to the report. Health Minister Dr Hamad Al-Manie was quoted as saying the private sector was instrumental in supporting the government run health care system by providing advanced medical services.

He said the Saudi government was encouraging investment from the private medical sector by providing numerous incentives. Dr Khaled Marghalani, a health ministry spokesman, told the newspaper that private hospitals makes up 31% of the total number of hospitals in the kingdom.

He said: “There are 113 private hospitals that provide 11,135 beds. There are 13,788 doctors, 2,466 dentists, 5,370 pharmacists and 17,810 nurses employed in the private sector.” Oman-Morocco MoU The Times of Oman reports that the Sultanate of Oman and Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 28 October to enhance cooperation in various fields of health including exchange of medical information and expertise, and encouraging direct co-operation among health training institutes in the two countries.

The MoU was signed in Muscat by Dr Ali bin Mohammed bin Moosa, health minister for Oman, and Dr Mohammed Al Sheikh Bidalla, health minister for Morocco.

The MoU covered co-operation in primary healthcare through joint co-ordination and co-operation in the fields of acute disease; preventive programmes, including TB, malaria and AIDS; population health and family planning programmes; pharmaceutical and medical equipment; medical research; specialised medical training and continuous medical education.


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