KUWAIT: Kuwaiti health ministry workers scan employees and visitors of the ministries complex, as they arrive to their work, in Kuwait City on March 4, 2020. - Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: In an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Kuwait, the Ministry of Health's hospital director recently sent internal memos to all staff urging them to be prepared and proactive in case they are called to face the challenge of dealing with coronavirus patients. The memorandum was sent through department heads addressed to all health personnel including physicians and nurses, urging them to delay their travels by up to six months and stand by in case of emergencies.

"Yes, we got the memo advising us to delay vacations for at least six months," said a Filipino nurse working in a government hospital who spoke to Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity. "I am about to travel to the Philippines, my bags are packed, my family is ready to travel and we have plans for our 30-day annual leave. Now those plans are put on hold after we received the advisory," she said. Even private hospitals received the same advisory. "Yes, we are also not permitted to take leave as well. We understand the current situation and we will abide and follow the rules," said a nurse working at a private hospital.

The memo, according to a Kuwait Times' source, was issued by the hospital director. "I believe the memo is different for each section or department because we have different functions. If you are in the specialized section and are dealing with current emergencies, you are not supposed to take leave or vacation. That was mentioned before, but now it looks like the memo is for everyone. It was made clear to me by my boss that even those who filed for their vacation before February 24 are advised not to go," the source said.

Asked if medics are prepared to deal with a situation of this magnitude, she said: "We are trained to deal with crisis situations, so we are ready at all times. I don't think it is a problem. But we are human beings too and are afraid, not for ourselves, but for our loved ones."

Ironically, staff of some private clinics received a different warning. "In the private clinic where I work, we have not been advised of anything. In fact we received a verbal notice that we might close since we do not have customers - the number of patients has drastically gone down. The owner is also afraid we might contract the virus since we are on the frontline and attending to the needs of patients. So in order to contain and avoid transmission, they told us we might close temporarily," said a nurse working in a private clinic.