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Doctors resign over coronavirus scare

Last updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:55 PM


Saudi Gazette report 

JEDDAH – At least four consultant doctors at Jeddah’s King Fahd Hospital have resigned this week following their reported refusal to treat people affected by MERS coronavirus, a section of the Arabic press reported on Tuesday.

A consultant female internist on Monday tendered her resignation to the hospital’s director, according a report in Makkah newspaper.

The hospital director sent a letter to the director of Health Affairs in Jeddah in which he asked to take ‘appropriate action’ on the resignation of the doctor from the Ministry of Health service. He noted that the doctor’s resignation follows her refusal to treat coronavirus affected patients.

Medical sources at the hospital said that three consultant doctors have also resigned from the hospital for the same reason during the last three days.    

A foreigner has died from MERS in Jeddah, where authorities have sought to calm fears over the spreading respiratory illness, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The death of the 70-year-old man brought the toll of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in the Kingdom to 69 fatalities.

Four new cases of infection were registered, bringing the Kingdom’s total to 194, the ministry said.

Last week panic over the spread of MERS among medical staff in Jeddah had caused a temporary closure of an emergency room at King Fahd Hospital, prompting a visit by Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah aimed at reassuring an anxious public.

Rabeeah briefed the Cabinet on Monday following his visit to hospitals in Jeddah over the weekend.

“The situation concerning the coronavirus is reassuring,” a government statement said following the meeting.

The virus was initially concentrated in the Eastern Province but has now spread across other areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that it had been told of 212 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection worldwide, of which 88 have proved fatal.

The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

Experts are still struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no known vaccine.

A recent study said the virus has been “extraordinarily common” in camels for at least 20 years, and may have been passed directly from the animals to humans.

But the Saudi health minister warned against assuming that camels were behind the virus, insisting in remarks published by Makkah daily on Monday that “one should not jump to conclusions.”

“Saudi hospitals did not deal with a single case of infection that involved contact with the animal,” he said. – With agencies

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