UMM AL QUWAIN // Three years ago a large, sprawling expanse of desert in the emirate lay empty.
Today, the sand has made way for the Dh750 million Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital, which stands on 46,000 square metres.
It is one of the biggest investments since UAQ Hospital, the emirate’s only other centre, was built in the 1970s.
“One of the goals of the UAE is to provide world-class health care for its residents and I think this is one of the demonstrable steps to help do that,” said Douglas McLaughlin, the hospital’s chief operating officer.
“This must be one of the biggest investments in the UAE for some time. This is a very visible sign to the community that there has been a lot of thought taken about how their care will be provided.”
The hospital, which took three years to build, is for now generally quiet.
It had a soft opening on December 2 to coincide with National Day, and opened many of its outpatient clinics, a pharmacy and dentistry clinic.
But services including the maternity wing, emergency and intensive care will be opened when phase one is completed by October, said Mr McLaughlin.
The final phase of the hospital, including hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and dermatology services, will open 18 months later.
Once fully operational, the 207-bed hospital, funded and operated by the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, will employ about 1,000 medical professionals.
It will offer services including general medicine, paediatrics, gynaecology, radiology, emergency services, dialysis, ICU, dermatology and urology, and will have a blood bank.
Sheikh Khalifa General will complement the UAQ Hospital and provide more advanced technology, Mr McLaughlin said.
It is the first healthcare centre to be established under the ministry.
The financial injection into the Northern Emirates, which will be boosted with other investments including three new motorways that are out to tender and will link UAQ with neighbouring emirates, has been welcomed by residents.
Emirati and UAQ resident Khulood Abrahim, 23, sat with her two-year-old son Suhail in one of the hospital’s outpatient rooms.
She is delighted that Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital has been built as Suhail suffers from chronic bronchitis and sinusitis and, until now, has been in severe pain.
Mrs Abrahim visited other medical centres seeking treatment for her son but it was only the laser treatment at the new hospital that has helped improve his condition.
“I am so happy it is here,” she said. “I used to bring him to many other hospitals outside but this is better. Now he is better than before.”
Emirati Yamaha Ali, 28, described the hospital as “very, very, very good for the emirate”.
“It is very beneficial,” Mr Ali said. “I am glad it is here.”