The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that health security is no less important than food or water security. It is one of the most vital sectors that needs to be consolidated with new projects that can help Oman protect its people.
The pandemic has revealed the urgent need to delve into medical advancements and innovation to make Oman self-reliant and fight any future pandemic.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Hilal bin Hamad al Sarimi, chairman of the Health and Environmental Committee of MajlisA’Shura, said that health security is a ‘national issue’ that needs the attention and efforts of everyone. “We need to establish factories to produce medicines and medical supplies because Oman has a severe shortage of such material.”
For any country to achieve health security, it must meet between 50 and 70 per cent of its medical supply needs, Sarimi noted. The sultanate currently produces about ten per cent of its medical needs. “We also need advanced medical research laboratories to provide vaccines to confront any pandemic or disease. We have a shortage of hospital beds and emergency health services.”
He observed that there is urgent need of qualified staff to deal with crises like pandemics.
“We also need financial stability in order to procure medicines and medical supplies, especially in times of pandemics. Pharmaceutical and vaccine research centres can eventually evolve to support the national economy. It is also necessary to learn from international experiences in the field of pharmaceutical research while utilising the Omani competencies,” said Sarimi.
He informed that His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik recently issued Royal Orders to establish an integrated centre for examination of infectious diseases, which he said was a timely decision considering the ongoing pandemic.
Elaborating on the concept of global public health security, Dr Hamad al Senawi, senior consultant in the Department of Behavioural Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, said it is defined as the activities required, both proactive and reactive, to minimise the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger people’s health across geographical regions and international boundaries.
“Health security is an important issue, especially in light of the spread of epidemics from one country to another with the movement of individuals and goods across borders, which poses a threat to populations in various countries.
“Therefore, states and governments seek to create a mechanism for joint cooperation in detecting and reporting the presence of infectious diseases and creating accurate examination techniques. Health security includes enacting quarantine laws based on standardised scientific studies,” Dr Senawi said.
Dr Senawi stressed on the need for Oman to participate in activating international agreements that include precautionary measures to limit the spread of pandemics. He included the provision of vaccines with proven efficacy to all citizens and residents according to scientific guidelines to achieve herd immunity under health security.
“Health and media agencies contribute to reminding individuals to follow physical distancing, sanitising hands frequently and wearing masks to reduce the spread of disease and refuting rumors about the negative effects of vaccines,” Senawi said.
For Dr Suleiman Zahir al Shuraiqi, senior specialist at the National Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, health security depends on the provision of medicines and establishing medical stores for this, and access to medical equipment of all kinds to medical cadres. “Pandemics create medical needs of all kinds. Oman has health services, but it needs a centre to combat pandemics and for the continuous education and training of its health workers,” Dr Shuraiqi said.
The sultanate has five facilities for the production of medicines and medical equipment. Plans for the establishment of five more are being worked on. According to a strategic plan of the Ministry of Health, efforts are on to raise local production of medical supplies and equipment to meet 20 per cent of the sultanate’s needs by the end of 2025 and up to 50 per cent by 2050.