Via CIDRAP, an excellent summary of a hectic day by Robert Roos: Saudi Arabia sacks health chief as MERS cases surge. Excerpt:
The latest cases in Saudi Arabia raised the country's MERS count to 261, including 81 deaths. More than a third of those cases have been announced just this month. Most of the April cases have been in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, many of them in healthcare workers (HCWs).
Health minister's removal
Multiple media reports today said Saudi Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah was removed from his post and appointed as an advisor to the Royal Court. Labor Minister Adel bin Mohammad Faqih was assigned to act as minister of health while continuing his labor duties. No reasons were given for Rabeeah's removal.
Worries among the staff at King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah forced the temporary closure of the emergency department there earlier this month. As noted in a Gulf News report today, Rabeeah visited the hospital last week in an effort to reassure the public, but on Apr 16 four doctors there reportedly resigned after refusing to treat MERS patients.
At a press conference yesterday, Rabeeah attributed the recent spate of cases to improved testing rather than faster spread of the virus, according to Gulf News. He said more than 20,000 people have been screened for MERS over the past few weeks. He also said the MERS case-fatality rate has been dropping.
A newspaper columnist quoted by the news service Al Arabiya today said the MERS outbreak was "the last straw" that led to Rabeeah's removal.
Mohammad Assaaed, columnist for the daily al-Hayat, said Rabeeah has been dogged by successive failures, especially concerning "the comprehensive medical insurance which people have been waiting for over the past 15 years," according to the story.
He said Rabeeah, a surgeon who is known for operations to separate conjoined twins, failed to take serious and urgent action when the coronavirus first surfaced in 2012.
"He is undoubtedly an excellent surgeon, but as a manager he was less qualified in my opinion. His medical body, which is his right arm, was also not satisfied with him," Assaaed told Al Arabiya.