By Shamim Ali.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has facilities available for Haemodialysis for pilgrims carrying out Hajj or Umrah, these services are free. As information for accessing these facilities are scarce, I will go through the process of acquiring the services.
There are choices of hospitals in Makkah and Madinah and each hospital will have its own admission policy, I will be focussing my article on King Abdul Aziz Hospital (Makkah) and King Fahd Hospital (Madinah).
Before leaving for Hajj or Umrah
Inform the Renal Physician/consultant (UK) at least 6 months before travel, this will enable them to advise you if the patient is fit to travel and if so, optimise the health of the patient leading up to the date of travel.
Inform the Dialysis Ward (UK) at least 2 months before date of travel so they will be able to produce the required reports for travel.
You will need Medical Reports (Consultants Report), Virology/Serology Reports, a copy of Hajj/Umrah Visa. Copies are accepted but MUST be legible otherwise they will deny services. Dialysis Wards (UK) normally have knowledge of what reports to issue but it is advisable that you verify that the above reports are included. Make multiple copies of the reports, passport and visa as it is easy to misplace them.
Have copies of Doctors (GP) report regarding all medications that you will be carrying with you including separate letters for any medication administered by syringe i.e. insulin although repeat prescriptions will suffice.
King Abdul Aziz Hospital, locally known as “Zahir Hospital” or “Mustashfa Malik Abdul Aziz” is located in the Zahir Area and is about 15min taxi ride from Al Ajyad.
The dialysis unit is closed on Fridays and is advisable to rearrange your dialysis accordingly. On the day dialysis may not be available in busy periods of the year (i.e. Hajj/Ramadhan) so go to the hospital a day before to submit your paperworks. The Facebook group mentioned below can help with that.
- Reception 1 – The main reception is located in the A&E Dept, here they will review your medical reports and Hajj or Umrah Visa. You will be issued with a slip and all your paperwork will be returned to you.
- Reception 2 (Dialysis Centre) – Here you will submit the slip supplied by Reception 1 and all your reports. They will register you and return all your documents and issue you with a new slip. Now you will be asked to wait, males will wait outside and females at their allocated room (4)
- Before going to the waiting area it is advised that you attend the weighing room located at room (3). They will take your weight, temp, BP etc. They will require these results before they start dialysis.
- This is the waiting room for females, no men allowed.
- Once the patient is prepared for dialysis, nurses/doctor will require your medical reports.
- If the dialysis patient is female, it is advisable to have a female companion as not all waiting areas/dialysis areas allow males to enter.
- Having an Arabic speaker would help enormously as most of the admin staff may not speak English.
- Most of the ward nurses and doctors here speak English, some better than others.
- If required, make your next appointment for dialysis from Reception 2 and you will only need to carry out Steps 2 & 3 when you next attend.
- Admissions does not require the dialysis patient if “On the day dialysis” is not required. You will need to carry out Steps 1 & 2.
- If the patient tends to be cold during dialysis then you should bring your own blanket, remember, the facilities are air conditioned.
King Fahd Hospital locally known as “Mustashfa Malik Fahd” is approximately 20-25mins from Masjid ul Nabwi.
Pilgrim Dialysis for this hospital is through the A&E Department.
- Reception – Inform them that you are here for dialysis “Hajji Dialysis”, here you will be asked for the Hajj/Umrah Visa. You will then be given a pre filled form.
- Take this form and hand it inside room (2) and wait to be called. Once called inform the doctor that you are here on Hajj/Umrah and require dialysis. The doctor will take some details and fill in the form and return it to you.
- You now go to Room (3 – “Green Area”) and hand in the form and wait to be called, they will take blood samples and refer you to the A&E Ward. You are now required to wait whilst the blood results come and there is a bed available in the A&E Ward.
- Once a bed is available you will be bought to Area (4), Males and females are segregated here although companions (Male/Female) are allowed. You may be asked to have a Chest X-Ray and return to your bed. Once a dialysis unit becomes free you will be taken for dialysis.
- This is a 24Hr A&E Department, it tends to be VERY busy so allow plenty of time. It has been reported of waiting times of 18Hrs if you attend during the day
- Ideal time to go is before Fajr
- The process of admissions for multiple visits is the same
- The Dialysis Unit does not allow companions
- English is NOT widely spoken so someone with Arabic language is an advantage
- If the patient tends to be cold during dialysis then you should bring your own blanket, the facilities are air conditioned.
There is a group of people in Makkah who can arrange dialysis, they do so voluntarily. You can contact them via Facebook (Makkah Dialysis), you will be required to send them details of your stay in Makkah, dialysis dates and all the medical reports and visa copy for them to arrange your dialysis.
Planning your Umrah is the key to a less disruptive trip, for example:
- Book your flight for Friday to Madinah (allow for transits, if possible fly direct), if dialysis is carried out on Fridays (UK) then rearrange it for Thursday.
- Arrange land transport to Makkah for Sunday
- Attend hospital on Sunday to arrange dialysis or if off season then attend on the day of dialysis (Facebook group will be able to advise)
The above does mean you will spend only 2 days in Madinah but in my opinion it might be better to avoid the medical facilities here as the waiting times can affect your stay. Otherwise as mentioned above you may want to attend before Fajr as the dialysis unit tends to be less busy but keeping in mind that the process of admission is through A&E and it tends to be busy.
Remember, you should inform your consultant regarding your dialysis plan for your pilgrimage and take advice from them.
If you have been to Hajj or Umrah lately with a haemodialysis plan in place? Please share your experience on how you got on so others can benefit too.
UPDATE: December 2022
The Facebook group have updated the following:
Free dialysis is offered ONLY to pilgrims with the “Umrah Visa”.
To use Al-Noor in Makkah and King Fahd Hospital in Madinah.
Bring latest serology report and related medical reports.
Usually, dialysis slots for umrah pilgrims available at night but you should go early in the morning and make an appointment.