Dr. Ibrahim Kana is the head Of Nigeria’s National Medical Team to Hajj 2017. In this brief interview, he speaks about what Nigerian pilgrims should do to stay healthy and successfully carry out their Hajj rites.
How is the preparation in terms of medical services going so far?
I will say so far so good. NAHCON has kept to her promise in providing all the medical team needs. Human resources have been recruited in line with the policy of the National Medical Team – states and federal contributing into the team resulting in reduced wastage while focusing on enhanced medical.services for our pilgrims.
So far, we have recruited over 400 medical personnel, including doctors, pharmacists and nurses. NAHCON also directed all states to recruit environmental health officers who would stay with pilgrims and entrench personal and environmental hygiene. This we believe will drastically reduce prevalence of food borne diseases. This is called prevention is better than cure.
We have computerised all our clinics in Makkah and Madina and operating full Electronic Health Medical Records system. This is to ease stress on the pilgrims as well as bring many other benefits to Nigeria.
Apart from the clinics set up by your team in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is there any arrangement in terms of partnership with relevant saudi institutions to handle cases requiring referral?
Yes we have a strong relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Health. Just before Hajj, the Saudi Minister of Health invited his Nigerian counterpart to Riyadh to discus mutual issues concerning Hajj. We met with the Minister in Riyadh along with Nigeria’s Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Binta Adamu Bello. The meeting agreed to continue to offer secondary and tertiary medical services to all pilgrims during Hajj. The Nigerian delegation requested the Saudis to increase the number of Health posts around Madina Haram, ( Prophets Mosque) and they accepted. At the moment, any patient that is beyond the scope of our clinics is immediately referred to any of the Saudi hospitals in Makkah, Madina and even Jeddah. In fact, even major surgeries can be performed if the need arises, including heamodialysia for pilgrims that may developed renal failure. In short, our relationship is excellent.
In terms of drugs, medical equipment and personnel, how sufficient is the Nigerian medical team?
In terms of personnel, I can confidently say that we have adequate number. I must also mention that we carefully selected psychiatrists into the team to deal with the increasing number of mental disorder among Nigerian pilgrims.
There were reports of disease outbreak which was dispelled by Saudi Arabian authorities, but is there any measure you expect Nigerian pilgrims to take with respect to their overall well being?
Sincerely speaking there is no specific disease threat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that poses threat to pilgrims. There were concerns of outbreak of cholera from Yemen, but the Saudi authorities have taken measures in collaboration with the World Health Organisation to contain the disease. Of course there is still the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus, MERS, in Saudi Arabia, but fortunately, there has not been a case of human to human transmission. The established mode of transmission has been from animals, especially camels. We therefore advise all pilgrims to stay away from such animals in the Kingdom. Incidentally, no pilgrim would be exposed to such animals during Hajj.
What are the challenges medical personnel face in handling Nigerian patients in Saudi Arabia. What can be done to overcome them?
The number one challenge we face is that of indiscipline and lack of awareness amongst Nigerian pilgrims. For example, pilgrims coming to clinics just to get free drugs, thereby affecting our forecast. I call on all pilgrims to prevent disease than frequenting clinics to collect drugs and unnecessarily overstretching the services.
Is there any new health policy Nigerian pilgrims should be aware of?
The number one policy is for all pilgrims to ensure they get themselves immunized against yellow fever, cerebrospinal meningitis and polio. Additionally, any woman that is pregnant should suspend her Hajj because we shall drop her even at point of departure if she’s found to be pregnant. For those who have chronic disease like hypertension or diabetes, they should please get certification from their physicians while those suffering from HIV/AIDS should not fear because the Honourable Minister of Health has donated all the Antiretroviral combinations and presently in Saudi Arabia already.
In terms of emergency, what do you expect Nigerian pilgrims to do?
The number one potential emergency is heat stroke. The temperatures are ranging between 35-40 degrees centigrade. We advise pilgrims to carry light clothing, frequently drink cold water and avoid crowded areas.
In terms of preparing for emergencies, NAHCON chairman is partnering with the Minister of health, Prof. Adewole in setting up an emergency and surveillance team for this year’s Hajj. Some of the squad members are already operating in Madina.
Do you have any message you want to pass to the pilgrims or officials?
My advise to all pilgrims is to look after their health by eating hygienic food, not to patronize the illegal food vendors who have the tendency of dishing out contaminated food. Furthermore, our clinics are open 24/7 in both Makkah and Madina. All the state officials are to note and also make good use of the ambulances that are available for emergency use.