ABU DHABI // The healthcare landscape in Abu Dhabi is to be redrawn to world-class standards with a series of ambitious projects given the green light yesterday.
The Executive Council approved building six hospitals that will increase bed capacity by up to a third, along with a medical rehabilitation centre, a dialysis centre, four ambulatory clinics, a special-needs centre and a disease prevention and screening centre.
A new general hospital and a specialised paediatric hospital will replace existing facilities at the pioneering Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. A dedicated Women’s Health Hospital will also open in SKMC, replacing the existing Corniche Hospital. The moves will increase the bed capacity in SKMC from 568 to 838, with the possibility of future expansion. The 235-bed Corniche Hospital, a city landmark, will be demolished.
The rehabilitation centre and the centre for disease prevention and screening will be in Khalifa City A. The special-needs centre, which can accommodate 80 cases, will be in Al Mafraq.
A new replacement Al Ain Hospital is also planned, increasing bed capacity from 412 to 713.
Ghayathi and Al Sila hospitals in the Western Region are being replaced with new facilities, with an increased capacity from about 30 beds per hospital to as many as 80.
Hospital operations will not be interrupted during construction, and the old facilities will not be demolished until the new ones are completed and ready to receive patients.
With the exception of the Women’s Health Hospital at SKMC, all replacement hospitals will be built near the existing ones.
“The Government is setting world-class standards for providers to meet,” said Saif Bader Al Qubaisi, chairman of Seha, Abu Dhabi’s health services company. “The new healthcare facilities are an example of how these standards have been translated into reality.”
The expansion will help to prepare for future healthcare needs. Officials at a GCC health conference last November said more than 2,000 additional hospital beds would be needed in the next 15 years to meet the demands of a growing population.
Increased competition between the public and private sectors could help health care to progress in the emirate, experts said.
“With more private hospitals coming in and the public sector in Abu Dhabi moving forward and expanding, there definitely is the potential for improving standards,” said Dr Mark Newson-Smith, adjunct assistant professor of community health at United Arab Emirates University and chief medical officer at Emirates National Oil Company.
However, improving standards will be possible only if the private healthcare sector does not lose sight of what is in the best interest of the public, Dr Newson-Smith added.
“They must find the right balance between what is cost-effective and delivering the best health care to their patients,” he said.
The private sector also welcomed the expansion. “This will certainly raise the bar for health care,” said Mohammed Al Shorafa Hammadi, managing director and chief executive of United Eastern Medical. The private healthcare provider will open its own, dedicated 200-bed women and children’s hospital, Danat Al Emarat, next year.
What will determine the success of all these new facilities, Mr Hammadi said, is patient satisfaction.
“Clinically speaking, it’s nearly all the same. The specialties may differ slightly, for example our hospital will specialise more in gynaecology, while the other may be more specialised in obstetrics,” he said. “What it all comes down to is customer service and hospitality. Having a child is not just a science, it is a celebration and state of mind.”
He said the new women’s hospital at SKMC would not significantly affect the bed capacity in the women’s health market because the old Corniche Hospital would be shut down.
Officials at the existing facilities looked forward to the move.
“This will enable us to provide a level of service that we were unable to offer previously, taking into consideration the cultural needs of the community,” sad George Jepson, chief executive of Al Ain Hospital. “This includes larger rooms, private rooms, and a separate area for women and children.”
The new hospital will have dedicated trauma and rehabilitation centres, and is expected to be completed in three years, Mr Jepson added.
It is not the only hospital in the area that will be redeveloped. Oasis Hospital, belonging to the private sector, will also be replaced with a new development. Its bed capacity will more than double, from 50 to 120 beds.
The hospital will expand its maternal, neonatal and surgical care services.
“It is definitely needed, most of our outpatient services were always at 100 per cent occupancy,” said Brad Kellogg, senior vice president of facility management and safety.
“The healthcare landscape has changed since the introduction of the health insurance law in 2006,” he said. “Previously, many people had to pay cash to access health care. When it became mandatory, a greater part of our society now has access.”
A 66-unit dialysis centre will be added to Tawam Hospital, also a Seha facility. This is in addition to a centre set to open by March at Mafraq Hospital, and another planned centre at SKMC – comprising a total of 204 dialysis units.
The Government has also approved four new ambulatory clinics – which attend to urgent-care cases – in addition to nine recently approved clinics that will be in operation by 2013. Seha operates 62 ambulatory clinics.
The increase in the number of clinics will save travel time and smooth the process in which patients are “assessed and treated based on their unique conditions”, Seha’s chairman Mr Qubaisi said.