Medical screening mandatory for health workers

In line with the directives of Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, Director General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the Dubai Health Policy and Strategy Sector (HPSS) announced on Monday the introduction of the mandatory medical screening policy for healthcare workers (HCWS) in the emirate of Dubai.

The policy, which will be introduced shortly, is aimed to protect healthcare workers (HCW) as well as the patients they come into contact with, said Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of health policy and strategy sector at the DHA.

"The policy is in line with one of the objectives of the Dubai Health Sector 2011-2013, which highlights the importance of implementing measures that will help reduce the burden of communicable diseases in the emirate. The application of this policy ensures effective steps are taken to maintain the health of HCWs and it will also enhance patient safety," she said.

Al Jassmi added: "Mandatory screening will also ensure early diagnosis and this is particularly important for some fatal diseases, as early screening will help save the lives of these workers or at least prolong their lives."

Dr Aizeldin Al Jack, consultant and head of preventive medicine section, public health and safety department, health policy and strategy sector at DHA, said: "We have been working with both internal and external stakeholders to develop this policy. According to the policy, periodic screening will be done every three years for HIV; hepatitis B and C; pulmonary tuberculosis; chickenpox and syphilis."

He further elaborated that all HCW jobs have been classified into different categories depending on the risk of transmitting the infection to the patient.

He said: "A person may be unfit in one category but maybe fit in another category. Therefore, healthcare administrators may modify his or her job based on the results of the screening."

He said in some cases the infected person may receive treatment and start working in the same job after being treated. He gave an example of syphilis.

Dr. Lubna Al Shaali, public health specialist at the public health and safety department, health policy and strategy sector said: "It is essential that all healthcare workers (HCWs) are aware of their infection status so that that early secondary (prevention from disease complications) and tertiary (managing disabilities and rehabilitation) preventive steps can be taken. Awareness of their health status is important for them as well as for their families as they can infect their close ones".

Dr. Wasif Alam, director of the public health and safety department, health policy and strategy sector, encouraged all HCWs to ensure they are immunised not only against hepatitis B and chicken pox as mandated in the policy but also against other vaccine preventable diseases like influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus, hepatitis A, herpes zooster, meningococcal and HPV.

He added that the percentage of adult vaccination has always been low globally, perhaps because of the lack of mandatory regulations. "If we implement compulsory vaccination for all high risk groups in Dubai, raise awareness about the importance of vaccinations and personal hygiene like hand washing, we can make a difference and curb the number of people who develop communicable diseases."

He said that this policy will be introduced in two phases: awareness and then implementation. Awareness programs will be carried out in across all major hospitals in Dubai. The first awareness program took place on Monday in Latifa Hospital.

The DHA will roll out this policy, after all the awareness workshops are concluded.

 

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