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Focus on the Middle East

April 2012

Hospitals in the Middle East: Changing with the Times

PhotoA children's hospital in Cairo

Jordanian doctor Lewa al Islam Hazymh says it is "probably the main killer" in his country's hospitals.

Syrian doctor Maan Shamma said the problem is consuming billions of Syrian pounds, maybe the majority of the medical budget, and endangering the lives of countless people.

The ‘problem’ is not some known disease such as malaria or tuberculosis, but something patients catch once they enter hospital–infectious disease caused principally by general un-cleanliness including the simple task of not washing one's hands properly.

Hospitals across the world, even in highly developed countries, suffer from the problem, but it is particularly acute in developing countries which often have neither the financial or personnel resources, or in many cases even the basic knowledge, to tackle the crisis.

Eighteen medical staff from Iraq, Jordan, the Palestine Authority, Sudan, Syria and Egypt recently attended a three-week workshop at Fayoum University Hospitals near the Egyptian capital of Cairo to explore the problem, its origins, prevention and management of infectious outbreaks and other successful infection controls.

The workshop was a so-called third country program whereby JICA underwrites the cost, provides equipment when necessary and instructors and experts, but other countries or institutions, in this case Fayoum University, organize the event.

The system, increasingly used by JICA in many areas of the world, has many advantages. Personnel from countries where such expertise is not readily available can receive training abroad, often in a neighboring country with a similar cultural background and similar problems.

In addition to Egypt other countries such as Syria and Jordan have held regular third-country seminars, particularly for Iraqis because of the disruption of war there, Palestinians and trainees from as far away as Afghanistan.

The workshops are designed not only as a series of lectures, teacher to student, but as a collaborative give-and-take which can benefit everyone and eventually could lead to greater regional cooperation.

At the Fayoum workshop two Japanese experts including Dr. Namiko Yoshihara, an expert in infectious diseases, tuberculosis and AIDS, were guest lecturers.

JICA has worked closely with the university since 2008 and has helped sponsor previous programs on women's health care in Yemen, clinical immunology for infectious diseases for Nile Basin countries and a ‘total quality management’ course for health care facilities in Africa.

"Courses like this will help us reduce hospital costs, make medical care better and save many lives in our countries," said. Dr. Shamma.

"The Middle East is changing. Our entire lifestyles are changing," said Dr. Hazymh from Jordan. "We in the medical profession, in the hospitals, must move with the times and change with them."

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