Medical centres doing expat visa health testing in Saudi Arabia suspended

by Ray Clancy on June 11, 2014

Medical testing for expat visas and residency permits in Saudi Arabia is in disarray with 12 medical centres being suspended for various breaches of their licences.

The problems range from errors in keeping track of blood samples, a lack of proper record keeping, lack of specialist staff and hygiene issues.


12 medical centres have been suspended for various breaches of their licences

In one case the results of a positive HIV test were not passed on and there are also concerns over supervision of staff and equipment not being maintained properly.

Saudi authorities found problems at a total of 14 medical centres, of which 12 have been suspended while further investigations are carried out, according to Dr. Sami Badwood, Director of Jeddah Health Affairs.

The investigation will also look at the charging structures, as they appear to range from SR90 to SR400. Centres face having their licence to operate permanently removed.

Expats arriving in Saudi Arabia, and many other countries in the region, must have certain health checks done to be allowed to work in the country. The same checks are also required when renewing a visa.

The reason behind the testing is to keep the region free from certain communicable diseases. There are currently concerns about MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus), which has spread across the country with over 600 cases and 284 deaths. Many of those affected are expat health care workers.

The virus, for which there is no known cure, has been spreading steadily since first surfacing in 2012 and Saudi Arabia has been accused of hiding the number of cases and deaths. The latest figures were only made public after officials came under pressure from the World Health Organisation to review its figures.

The review showed that deaths from the virus, which is from the same family as the common cold but can lead to kidney failure and pneumonia, had been under reported by almost 50%.

Saudi health ministry spokesman Tariq Madani said that despite the revised figures, fewer people w are now contracting the disease.

MERS, which originated in the kingdom, has been diagnosed in victims in more than 20 countries. Iran and Algeria each reported two victims of the virus last week, their first. The infected Algerian men went on a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

One theory is that the virus could have come from contact with camels.


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