x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Diabetic centre to open in Al Ain

The second Imperial College London centre will treat and educate patients who currently have to travel to Abu Dhabi island or further.

Doctors work in the laboratory at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, which will open its facility in Al Ain next year.
Doctors work in the laboratory at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, which will open its facility in Al Ain next year.

ABU DHABI // Thousands of diabetics in Al Ain will benefit from a "world-class" facility when it opens next year. The Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC) will open the facility next year. It will be its second in the UAE.

More than 3,000 people currently travel from Al Ain to the Mubadala Healthcare Centre on Abu Dhabi island. As many as one in four Emiratis have the chronic disease. However, according to Dr Maha Barakat, the ICLDC's medical and research director, only half have been diagnosed. "You have to wonder where the others are and why they are not getting treatment," she said. "Is it because they object to going to hospital? Are they too frail? Of the things we need to fix, geography is one of them."

The ICLDC in Abu Dhabi has about 27,000 registered patients, and receives about 250 every day. The vast majority are Emiratis, who, with the right treatment and case management, only needed to see a doctor two to four times a year, said Dr Barakat. The centre will try to improve public awareness and education on how to live normally with the disease, which damages the body's ability to process sugar in the blood.

"An important component is those patients who do not seek treatment," said Dr Barakat. "They might know they are diabetic but because they feel 'normal' they will have family birthdays and eat cake because they don't feel unwell." If the patients did not receive regular guidance and check-ups, they were likely to develop complications affecting the eyes, arteries and heart, she said. "If you don't do that, complications can slowly creep in, but you won't know until it's too late," said Dr Barakat.

According to the World Health Organisation, the UAE has the second highest rate of diabetes in the world. It is largely put down to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. The Abu Dhabi centre opened four years ago and employs more than 160 staff. It handles more than 80,000 one-on-one consultations each year. The new Al Ain centre will start with just 60 staff but will have the capacity to employ many more, according to Suhail al Ansari, associate director of Mubadala Healthcare.

"Whenever we begin a project, we need to ensure that we balance financial profitability and socio-economic return," he said. "There is an obvious demand for this. Many of the patients travel from Al Ain so it makes sense." The centre's patients range in age from very young children to adults in their 80s. The announcement of the new centre has come as a relief for Nesreen Mohamed, a 30-year-old British mother and teacher from Al Ain who was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was nine.

She visits Britain twice a year to see an endocrinologist. "This centre will help chronic diabetics, such as myself, be more careful and alert regarding their health as there will be professional help at hand locally," she said. "For a long time, I have not been taking good care of my diabetes because there is no one to guide me. It has bad consequences, however." Being treated in Al Ain would be "perfect" because she would not have to abandon her children every time she needed check-up, said Ms Mohamed.

* With additional reporting by Ola Salem