Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Top US medical clinic to jointly manage new Abu Dhabi mega hospital

Mayo Clinic counts US presidents and Arab royalty among its patients

Heart surgeon Dr Abdulmajeed Alzubaidi gives the The National a tour of the hospital's advanced surgery rooms. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Heart surgeon Dr Abdulmajeed Alzubaidi gives the The National a tour of the hospital's advanced surgery rooms. Chris Whiteoak / The National

America's top-ranked medical group will jointly operate Abu Dhabi's new mega hospital.

The renowned Mayo Clinic will run Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City alongside the capital's public hospital operator Seha.

It marks the first Middle East venture from the respected Minnesota-based institution that counts US presidents, kings of Jordan and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors among its patients.

SSMC began accepting patients this month and will fully open in early January.

Our first goal is to take care of people from Abu Dhabi. Then we will develop this into a facility to attract patients from all over the world

Anton Decker, Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic officials on Sunday did not disclose any levels of financial commitment but patients will have access to the top surgeons of the clinic - some of whom will work at SSMC.

"Our first goal is to take care of people from Abu Dhabi," said Anton Decker, president of international for Mayo Clinic.

"Then we will develop this into a facility to attract patients from all over the world."

Mayo Clinic is known for its pioneering treatment and over the course of the next few months, doctors, surgeons and clerical staff from the US will begin working at the hospital.

It also intends to introduce some of the most advanced methods that exist today to tackle conditions such as cancer.

These include proton beam treatment - an advanced form of radiotherapy.

"To become an international destination, there are pieces we want to add," said William Stone, vice dean of clinical practice at Mayo Clinic.

"Things such as bone marrow transplant. Also proton beam therapy and large particle therapy for cancer. There are a host of things not present here that we hope to bring in the future."

SSMC has about 700 beds, 18 operating rooms, four wings and a surgical robot.

It opened quietly a few weeks ago but by the time it is fully operational in January, the hospital hopes to have at least 4,000 staff and treat up to 3,000 outpatients a day.

The Mayo clinic has its roots in a disaster relief hospital established in 1883 following a tornado that devastated Rochester. British national, William Worral Mayo, who had moved there a few years earlier, took over the running of the facility which gave the clinic its name.

It is famous for the high levels of care afforded to patients. Previous patients have included former US presidents John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan along with King Hussein of Jordan, author Ernest Hemingway and member of The Beatles George Harrison.

Even the colours of the walls are chosen to encourage moods with shades of blues and violets deployed in diagnosis areas to lower stress levels.

While Mayo was nor involved in the construction of SSMC, some of this ethos is expected in Abu Dhabi.

"Over course of time there will be changes to meet our needs and patient needs," said Mr Stone.

"Those are the kind of things we would anticipate patients to experience. We are very excited."

SSMC has four towers dedicated to children and maternity, surgical specialities, medical specialities and burn and critical care.

The multibillion-dollar hospital has been in the works for almost a decade and towers over the surrounding low-rise buildings. A picture of The President, Sheikh Khalifa, looking over initial plans in 2011 is hung in the reception. The facility replaces the adjacent Mafraq Hospital and it is hoped the joint venture will encourage more Emiratis to have medical treatment in the UAE.

Speaking in September, Saeed Al Kuwaiti, head of SSMC’s operation committee, said what makes the hospital different is that is covers so many specialities.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - November 14, 2019: Dr Nahed Balalaa. Tour around new Sheikh Shakhbout hospital. Thursday the 14th of November 2019. Sheikh Shakbout Medical City, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Dr Nahed Balalaa says the hospital is gradually working up to full capacity in January. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“The best advantage is the location, which is on two major highways between Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, and Al Dhafra, making it the ideal location for trauma patients," said Mr Al Kuwaiti.

“We will be accepting all patients, regardless of their insurance. The government has invested a lot into SSMC and we are confident of the quality of services we will be offering patients.”

The process between Mayo and SSMC, meanwhile, has been going on for the past few months but the real work now is only starting.

"It will take us a few years," said Mr Stone.

"But the foundation they built here is incredible. We will be building it together and it is a very exciting future."

Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, said the collaboration was helping establish the emirate as "a global destination for health care".

"The nation's founding fathers and wise leadership set in motion a vision to deliver world-class health care for the people of the Emirates,” he said.

“This has meant significant investment over the years and the development of substantial health care services across the country."

Updated: November 25, 2019 08:16 AM

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