DUBAI // For many residents, Rashid Hospital continues to be a long-standing symbol of the country's evolving healthcare services.
Established in 1973, it was the second major public hospital in Dubai after Al Maktoum Hospital.
What started as a 200-bed facility offering basic healthcare services has now transformed into a specialised institution that can serve more than 500 in-patients with a medical staff of nearly 2,000. In 2009 alone, the hospital's operating budget was more than Dh400 million.
"In the beginning, we were the only hospital serving the entire emirate," said Dr Shawqi Khoori, the hospital's chief executive. "Over the years, we started developing sub-specialties, including haematology, the first burn unit in Dubai, a cath lab for heart attacks, and a rehab centre for patients suffering from post-brain injuries or heart attacks."
In the 1980s, the hospital introduced an isolated infectious diseases unit, where all patients with communicable diseases are currently referred. The hospital also developed five intensive care units with a 64-patient capacity.
However, demand eventually exceeded supply, and specialities were distributed to other public hospitals in the emirate, including Dubai Hospital and Al Wasl Hospital.
"This was done so that we can keep a balance in place, and so that we can introduce new services in our hospital, such as our trauma centre," Dr Khoori said.
That centre is what makes Rashid stand out from the rest. Introduced in 2006, the 140-bed stand-alone facility was the first in the emirate and serves about 140,000 patients per year.
Sprawled over 20,000 square metres, it is the major disaster facility for the Northern Emirates, said Dr Moin Fikree, the centre's director.
"All major catastrophes in Dubai and the Northern Emirates are referred directly to us," he said.
The most common traumas include injuries from traffic accidents and falls, and heart attacks.
Dr Fikree described the centre as the go-to place "whenever there is a major catastrophe, disaster, or any acute emergency".
To accommodate the emirate's growing needs, hospital administrators developed strategies to use space more efficiently.
One of those strategies was establishing an infusion centre, where patients who require ongoing medical care are treated as outpatients.
"Previously we had a problem where patients requiring [intravenous treatments]were occupying too many beds," Dr Khoori said. "Now, patients who require this or other types of drugs, such as cytotoxics, can receive their medication and go home."
Rashid Hospital's services extend beyond its premises. This include the dermatology centre, which occupies two buildings in the Al Safa Medical Centre, and the Airport Medical Centre.
Yet despite the hospital's achievements and space-saving attempts, Dr Khoori said the time has come reached the end of its lifespan and it is time to move to a new site
"We need space, but we can't expand more than we already have. The hospital was built 40 years back for that time," he said. "If there is any new expansion, I'm looking to build a new hospital. We do have a plan, but we are waiting for final agreement from the Government."
However, the hospital continues to advance its services, with future plans to launch a hybrid cath lab where patients can receive catheterisation procedures anywhere on their body through an integrated medical approach.
"For example, if anyone has any bleeding in the brain, they can go to that area with a catheter and insert a coil that will stop the bleeding with the help of an interventional radiologist," Dr Khoori said. "Cardiologists already conduct such procedures, but only for the heart. This will allow us to reach anywhere in the body."
The medical equipment is being tested, Dr Khoori said, and there are plans to officially launch the lab early next year.