x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

UAE Haj mission ensures medical facilities meet standards

As thousands of pilgrims throng to Mecca to perform the Haj, the UAE's Haj mission ensures that medical facilities are in place in case of injuries or outbreak of diseases.

In a small corner of hotel reception, a doctor and nurse carefully set up a temporary medical clinic to provide on-site care to pilgrims.

Made up of just a bed, a desk for the doctor to sit at, and later a wardrobe to house all the medicines and medical equipment, the clinic plays a crucial role in helping the rituals run smoothly.

Having arrived just a few hours earlier, the doctor and nurse are still unpacking when the official medical unit for the UAE's Haj mission decides to inspect their temporary home.

Every Haj agency must provide a clinic for pilgrims, ensuring they have everything to care for not only new medical ailments, but also many chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Six medical units from the UAE Haj mission will be touring all the country's mobile clinics to make sure they do not compromise or let standards slip.

They will also be given information about how to tackle certain circumstances such as reporting a contagious disease.

"A few years ago there was only the clinic of the official mission, and pilgrims had to come find us if they face any health problems," says Dr Essam Al Zarouni, a doctor in the UAE mission.

"Now we go ourselves to find the pilgrims and make sure the agencies have provided proper medical facilities and services."

During the hotel clinic's inspection, all did not run smoothly. "Why isn't there a tap for you to wash your hands between patients?" he asks the agency's nurse. She tells him they will be adding sanitisers. "Do you know your patients and what medication they are on? Can you show me files for ones with chronic diseases," he asks the clinic's doctor.

Dr Al Zarouni and the rest of the team must inspect everything from the expiry dates on medicines to the organisation of patient files.

The inspection takes about half an hour, but can take longer depending on the size of the clinic, and the doctor and nurse are briefed on the findings. The clinic is given two days to make the relevant changes, after which time they will be revisited by the inspectors.

Dr Al Zarouni explains that the mission has a three-strike policy. If they clinic fails three inspections, the Haj agency will face penalties when it is back in the UAE.

Despite the inspection, it is not long before the clinic's first patients start arriving.

A woman, who had just travelled for five hours by bus from Madina at dawn, arrives complaining of pressure in her leg.

"Are you married? Are you on pills?" asks the doctor before examining the woman's leg. After the consultation he prescribes painkillers.

Once the main Haj rituals begin in Mena and Arafat, the mobile clinics will relocate.

"The Saudi government has already provided many hospitals, clinic and centres on location," explains Dr Al Zarouni, "so we will provide mobile units there."

The UAE mission has two ambulances in Mecca and one in Madina.

So far 1,167 UAE pilgrims have arrived from the UAE, 352 have already reached Mecca and the rest are still in Madina.

After a check-up visit to the Madina camps, the head of the UAE mission says they are all in good health. Some 6,228 pilgrims will arrive in the next few days.

hdajani@thenational.ae