Posted on April 29, 2020

Director of the Public Health Department of the Ministry of Public Health Dr Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani said that Qatar has so far designated 5 hospitals to care for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients along with 4 health centers for testing, examining and keeping suspected cases in addition to a hospital for medical isolation.

In an interview with Qatar News Agency, he said that 5 hospitals were designated to treat COVID-19 patients, which are the Communicable Disease Center and Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital, The Cuban Hospital, Mesaieed Hospital, and Ras Laffan Hospital, in addition to 4 health centers for testing, examining and keeping suspected cases, which are Gharafat Al Rayyan, Umm Salal, Muaither and Rawdat Al Khail health centers.

The Director added that medical isolation hospital in Umm Salal area was made ready on April 9, 2020, with a capacity of 12,500 beds, and it is equipped with all the necessary health requirements, facilities and safety to receive those infected with the virus. He also revealed that licensed practitioners in the private sector were recently allowed to work in treatment institutions in the government sector in order to strengthen the medical and paramedical staff in the face of the coronavirus and provide more and faster medical and nursing services.

Responding to a question related to the future plans of the Ministry  to handle the spread of the COVID-19 disease, Dr Sheikh Mohammed said that the goal of addressing this pandemic was not only to slow the spread of the virus to reduce the number of infected people and decrease its burden on the health system, but the main objective from the beginning was to prevent an ascendant curve as much as possible. We have faced a serious challenge since the end of February after Qatari citizens were evacuated from Iran, in addition to the return of citizens from the affected countries to Qatar, which contributed to the increase in the number of infections and the rise in the numbers of new cases, he said.

On the medical teams' current handling of the coronavirus crisis, the Director said that due to the State's keenness on the right of everyone to health, including providing the necessary medical care for them and the necessary supplies and equipment, the Ministry accelerated the provision of medical, nursing and technical cadres and employed additional physicians to support the medical and nursing staff assigned to work in the field to respond to the corona epidemic. He added that the health cadres have been trained and qualified remotely by WHO experts, pointing out that quality and performance indicators have been developed to measure the readiness of the hospital system in the country, which is monitored through periodic reports.

He also pointed to the launch of the "For Qatar" campaign by the Ministry of Public Health with the aim of attracting volunteers to help reduce the spread of the pandemic. The volunteers were trained at the Education City's Student Center in Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), and they have embarked on their volunteering work with enthusiasm.

The Director said that Qatar Foundation (QF)'s research, development and innovation centers have provided Hamad Medical Corporation with some of the equipment available in order to help speed up laboratory testing procedures. He announced that QF is also working on developing a test that would help in terms of determining the presence of coronavirus (COVID-19), in addition to developing potential treatment mechanisms. Furthermore, it is working in cooperation with Qatar Computing Research Institute to develop an application for diagnosis and monitoring.

On a question regarding quarantine that was implemented since the beginning of the crisis, the Director of Public Health revealed that about 30 hotels were equipped with the highest standards of safety for quarantine, where rooms were allocated for individual cases and for families, in addition to clinics within hotels for medical and paramedical personnel for case management, evaluation, monitoring and follow-up.

He stated that medical staff perform daily evaluation of the resident in quarantine to detect health status and measure the temperature and ensure that no pathological symptoms appear as tests are done every two days periodically to detect the virus. He also indicated that all services are provided in hotels, including internet service to allow residents to communicate with family and friends. Room service is also provided, including cleaning on a daily basis, while the hotel provides laundry and delivery services. He noted that leaving the room is forbidden if there is no necessity in order to prevent direct contact in accordance with rules of social distancing.

The Director of Public Health explained that residents in quarantine are authorized to leave after it is confirmed that they are free of the virus, depending on the clinical examination and the result of laboratory analyzes and the report by the treatment team. He said that the 14 day period is adequate for quarantine, and it is calculated starting from the last contact with an infected person. When there is a positive case of COVID-19 with clinical symptoms, the patient will be transferred to isolation hospital, he said.

With regard to the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in Qatar, he explained that the noticeable increase is due to several reasons, including that the spread of the virus has begun to enter the peak stage (i.e. the highest wave that affects the country), which may continue to increase for a period of time before it begins to decline. It is also due to the steady increase in the efforts of the Ministry and its medical teams to track the transmission chains of coronavirus and expand the surveillance process, including of groups of contacts with people who were previously diagnosed with the disease. All of this has contributed to the early detection of many cases of infection and reduced the spread of the virus.

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