How Saudi doctors fight COVID-19 abroad

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Time: 23 September 2020

A woman wearing a protective facemask walks past a paste-up by French street artist Ardif in Paris, depicting a Marianne and a member of the medical staff as a tribute to thank the caregivers, on May 15, 2020, as France eases the lockdown measures taken to curb the spread of the COVID-19, (the novel coronavirus). (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION – TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION
Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors across 41 countries on medical fellowship programs abroad continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Supplied)
  • Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors in medical fellowship programs abroad are fighting COVID-19 in 41 countries

MAKKAH: Many of the more than 6,000 Saudi doctors across 41 countries on medical fellowship programs abroad continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, doing their diligent duty to help people across the globe.

These doctors have shown dexterity in combating the coronavirus pandemic alongside colleagues from their host countries. A substantial number of those Saudi doctors refuse to leave despite the dangers, remaining in the countries where they are studying to help their fellow colleagues in the battle.

Dr. Abdullah Boqays, a fellow working as a dermatologist in cancer hospitals in Toulouse, France, told Arab News that 2020 has been a frightening year for many medical care workers.

“Doctors with various specialties have fought competently since the start of the pandemic, especially the ones dealing directly with infected patients, not only while working in hospitals, which make them more vulnerable than others in terms of infection, but also while dealing with patients who suffer from a weakened immune system,” he said.

Dr. Boqays told Arab News that the staff in his department of skin tumor and dermatology have had to deal with a number of follow-ups and consultations with visiting skin cancer patients, many of whom are at advanced stages of the disease or have weakened immune systems due to chemotherapy or immunosuppressants.

Tumor-removal surgeries have continued despite the pandemic, Dr. Baqis said. “The work environment, as well as behavioral and ethical practices, obliges us to continue the treatment, regardless of the reasons and methods used. Delaying chemotherapy drugs, administering  immunosuppressants or not performing curative surgeries might have disastrous consequences on the patients. We rely on God first, take the necessary precautionary measures to meet the demands of patients, support them and alleviate their pain,” he said.

“Even though we are far from our precious country, we are at peace because our wise government — under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — supports us and cares for Saudis abroad,” Dr. Boqays said

Abdullah Modhayan, a psychiatric resident at the Skane University Hospital in Malmo, has been in Sweden since 2015. “There are more than 50 Saudi doctors on a medical fellowship program in Sweden, working in various medical specialties in different cities, and most of them were on the frontline in the Swedish health system,” he said.

“Some of my colleagues on a medical fellowship program were infected with COVID-19, and quickly returned to their positions to help their colleagues in the Swedish health sector after they’d recovered. It is noteworthy to mention that the work achieved by Saudi doctors in Sweden was and still is appreciated here.”

The Kingdom vs. COVID-19

How Saudi Arabia acted swiftly and coordinated a global response to fight the coronavirus, preventing a far worse crisis at home and around the world.

Sweden made headlines for its soft strategy in combatting the pandemic: The government did not close down shops, restaurants or cafés, and did not impose a quarantine for its citizens and residents.

“This decision had major consequences at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden,” Dr. Modhayan said. “The mortality rate was one of the highest in Europe, which was difficult on the health sector and its status amid a real challenge. Saudi doctors played an efficient role in the face of this challenge here.”

During the pandemic, Dr. Modhayan has been working in the psychiatric emergency department. He noted the psychological effect on individuals, most notably on those who lost loved ones to the coronavirus. “Providing psychological support and treatment for those who need it is very important, especially in such difficult circumstances,” he said.

Dr. Abdulghani Khogeer, a nephrologist surgeon (specializing in kidney and urinary tract diseases), has been living in France for the past seven years as part of a Saudi-French fellowship program and has seen firsthand the disastrous effect the pandemic had on France.

“Similar to other countries, France fought the coronavirus vigorously in the beginning, which required suspending non-urgent medical activities. This had a major effect on the workflow, as we followed remote procedures at clinics, canceled non-urgent operations, rescheduled surgeries, canceled clinics and followed other procedures. That required our constant presence and readiness to help in departments combating the virus such as the emergency department, performing many necessary surgeries during that time.”

Dr. Khogeer is grateful to the Kingdom’s embassy for its support and constant communication during this critical period. “I pray to God to protect us and help us return to our country safely, in order to serve it with all our learning and knowledge,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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