x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Boost for Abu Dhabi's health care with investment plans

Cash injection by government expected to boost health-care sector.

A medical laboratory technician at work in the microbiology lab at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
A medical laboratory technician at work in the microbiology lab at Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Health care in the emirate is expected to receive a major boost as a result of the Executive Council's multibillion-dirham plan to inject money into the economy.

Among the planned projects are nine walk-in healthcare clinics for Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

The new Mafraq Hospital, with 750 beds, 283 more than the existing centre, is among the developments.

The new facility, scheduled for completion halfway through next year, will also provide 150 intensive care units, 65 more than the existing hospital.

It will be in four major towers – one for women and children, a medical tower, a surgical tower and a tower for intensive care.

It will also provide patients with two levels of underground parking that can accommodate 1,700 cars, and lifts to take patients directly to their preferred department.

Dr Mohamad Yaman, the hospital's chief medical officer, said the new centre was a step forward in meeting the emirate's growing demands.

"Most of the hospitals today are almost full and as you know we have a capacity issue," Dr Yaman said. "We will expand all the services and provide all the necessary treatment at the highest quality."

He said the recruitment process for the new hospital began up to eight months ago, with "top-notch" physicians being brought in from theUK, US and Australia.

The new hospital will have up to 500 physicians, compared with the current 300.

Bringing this level of care to the emirate will help to reverse the trend of residents travelling abroad for treatment and help with the transfer of knowledge to local professionals for a sustainable healthcare model, Dr Yaman said.

Figures from the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi show there are only 16 physicians for every 10,000 people in the emirate.

The authority plans to increase that ratio to 23 for each 10,000 by 2017, with Emiratis making up at least a quarter of the total.

UAE nationals now make up 10 per cent of all physicians in Abu Dhabi.

Mafraq Hospital will be proactive in trying to train and educate nationals, Dr Yaman said.

"The new hospital will have an annex building with an education auditorium and classroom," he said.

"This will be a place where our experts can share their knowledge with the UAE national community. We will work together with educational institutions."

The hospital will have a bariatric surgery unit, where elements of the hospital's design including beds and lifts have been tailored to meet patients' needs, and a burns unit.

Also among new investments is Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, being built on Sowwah Island.

It will specialise in five categories: digestive disease, ophthalmology, cardiac and vascular care, neurology, and respiratory and critical care.

About 60 per cent of the 364-bed clinic, which can be expanded to 490 beds, is complete.

All physicians will be western- trained, either North American board certified or the equivalent.

Experts in the private sector said they were looking forward to the investment and hoped some of the funds would be used to expand the coverage of medical services.

"The introduction of insurance has increased demand tremendously at our hospital and more people are staying in the country for complex procedures, such as those for cardiology and ophthalmology," said Binay Shetty, chief operations officer of New Medical Centre Healthcare.

"Continued investment in insurance for more adequate healthcare coverage would help the private sector."

Apart from extra funding, Mr Shetty said overall infrastructure, mainly in licensing and education, should be examined.

"The Government in Abu Dhabi is very keen to get the private sector more involved," he said. "Currently, most inpatient services are being provided by government facilities, and I think they're aiming for an [even] distribution.

"We depend a lot on international manpower and developing the local talent is very important."

Last year, the Executive Council approved 14 new Seha healthcare centres. This includes six hospitals that will increase the overall bed capacity by up to a third, a medical rehabilitation centre, a dialysis centre, four walk-in clinics, a special-needs centre and a disease prevention and screening centre.

Dr Yaman said he saw a bright future for health care in Abu Dhabi.

"The driving force behind this is the wise leadership that wants the best for its residents," he said.

"I think in the next 10 years we will see a major leap in the healthcare sector and Abu Dhabi will be a leading example."

mismail@thenational.ae