x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UAE health chiefs in priority call for primary care and prevention

Investments in health care should be focused on primary care and prevention, officials say.

ABU DHABI // Primary care and prevention should be the main targets of investments in the industry, health chiefs say.

“The focus should be on primary care,” said Dr Nabil Debouni, medical director at Lifeline Hospital.

“If you look at the most common health problems in the country – diabetes, obesity, smoking and asthma – prevention plays an important role to reduce incidence.”

Investment in prevention could ease the social and financial burdens of complications from chronic diseases, Dr Debouni said.

Doctors said great strides had been made with prevention in Abu Dhabi, with screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and soon colorectal cancer.

The Weqaya programme for UAE nationals offers free screening for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and its neonatal screening continues to expand.

Moving from the traditional general practitioner approach to the modern family practice was also a suggested improvement.

“In the general practitioner practice the GP will see the patient, refer him to another doctor and that’s it,” said Dr Taha Ibrahim, chief executive of Al Noor Hospital’s Airport Road branch.

“In the modern family practice, the doctor will make the referral but continue to follow up with the patient. This has more scope, it will help with prevention and reduce the overall cost.”

Intensive and critical care are other opportunities for improvement.

Last year’s figures from the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi, show the emirate’s 146 intensive care beds were operating at about 90 per cent occupancy, with at least 30 more needed to meet demand.

“We definitely need expansion in terms of critical bed care for adults, children and neonatals,” Dr Debouni said. “This is important to make sure patients receive the care they need after an invasive procedure.”

Minimising patient stays at the hospital while ensuring their safety is also important, Dr Ibrahim said.

“This can be done through the innovation of technology and increasing the capacity and competency of surgeons.”