Many patients from the Arab world travel to Germany for healthcare and have been doing so for decades. Simply, they trust German medical expertise to resolve their health problems, particularly when they are too complex for treatment at home. They trust German healthcare, for good reason – the country plays a leading role in medical care, research and innovation in the world and is one of the best places in the world for the successful treatment of complex cases.
The country has many outstanding hospitals and clinics spread across the country, staffed by some of the most well recognised doctors and specialists in the world. There were too many for us to visit them all, so we focussed on Hamburg and Berlin as these cities have a concentration of leading hospitals and clinics that cater to international patients in general and Arab patients specifically.
In this article, we speak to doctors in Hamburg. In Part 2 of this article – to be published in the March-April 2017 issue of Middle East Health, we will focus on Berlin.
We thank Hamburg Tourism and Visit Berlin for assisting us with our itinerary and accommodation. Without their generous help and efficient organisation, it would have been very difficult to successfully complete our full agenda.
They do fantastic work promoting their respective cities and if you are thinking of visiting these wonderful, vibrant and culturally rich destinations – for healthcare or tourism – the best place to start your research is on their websites.
All the hospitals and clinics we visited have international patient offices – set up specifically to provide comprehensive services for travelling patients and their accompanying relatives. This includes initial consultation, estimated cost of procedure, visa assistance, airport pickup, accommodation for accompanying relatives, translation services, etc. They are there to make this process as smooth as possible and should be the first point of call for any patient considering treatment in one of these hospitals or clinics.
Hamburg Tourism notes that because of continued growth in the healthcare sector, the government is assisting this dynamic industry by “promoting sustainable business models and innovations throughcollaboration between research and teaching, business and politics, associations and interest groups, with a view to ensuring an exemplary healthcare system”.
They are also focussing on the internationalisation of their services and note that “existing cooperation agreements with the countries of the Arab world will allow a bilateral transfer of knowledge. Close personal ties between researchers and doctors with their world-wide counterparts benefit both sides, not least international patients in Hamburg”.
for a child
Dr Anja Dawson, gynaecologist and obstetrician, with specialisation in gynaecological endocrinology and reproductive medicine, leaves a lasting impression for her compassion, understanding and professionalism. She is one of a team of four highly skilled doctors and biologists. They include Dr Ulrich Knuth, gynaecologist, obstetrician and a leading andrology (male reproductive health) specialist; as well as Dr Andreas Schepers, reproductive biologist andsenior clinical embryologist and Dr Elke Leuschner, reproductive biologist, who run the laboratory.
Fertility Clinic Valentinshof has an exceptional success rate in producing pregnancies in couples who have virtually given up hope of having a child. They put this down to several factors, including the expertise of the doctors, technicians and embryologists, the advanced technology they use and the quality of their laboratory – as well as the somewhat less tangible, but equally important, empathy they offer, which enables the couple to feel at ease in this ‘oasis of calm’, as they refer to their clinic and which is immediately apparent when you visit it.
Their practice offers a complete range of fertility treatments – from optimising the body’s natural cycles to assisted or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
“We take the time to try all reasonable means of conceiving naturally wherever possible,” Dr Dawson explained.
They have a holistic approach designed to make the treatment all about the couple themselves. “In our fertility clinic, the male partner is directly involved in the therapy. From discussions with our patients, we know that couples appreciate and feel better about their treatment when both parties are involved,” she said.
“We draw information on the latest in fertility treatments from international congresses and publications. Any significant developments that we find worthy are integrated directly into our treatments.
“We work with the most modern equipment and we use our own IVF laboratory. In constructing our practice, we paid special attention to using clean, low-pollutant materials throughout, particularly in the IVF lab,” Dr Dawson told Middle East Health.
She said they guarantee couples the greatest possible discretion. “We keep the waiting times as short as possible, and we offer individual rooms in our surgery area as a matter of course.”
As well as providing a full range of diagnostics and treatment for women, the clinic also offers diagnostics for men. This is andrology specialist Dr Knuth’s responsibility. He is one of Europe’s leading andrologists and has knowledge of the latest advances in this specialist field of male reproductive health.
“We provide hope for men who have been told their sperm are no good for fertilisation. We can check tissue in the testes and extract a few healthy sperm, which can be used for IVF,” Dr Knuth explained.
Dr Dawson is also an experienced prenatal doctor and has many years of experience with the monitoring and care of high-risk pregnancies, such as with multiple pregnancies, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
The clinic also offers hormone consultation in which they diagnose and treat hormonal irregularities, such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, irregular menstrual cycles, thyroid disorders in women, and early menopause.
The doctors work with a range of partners in associated disciplines, such as nutrition, osteopathy, psychology, genetics and urology.
Kinderwunsch – Fertility Clinic Valentinshof
Helios Endo Clinic, Hamburg
The Helios Endo Clinic in Hamburg is a specialised private clinic for bone, joint and spine surgery. The clinic is well known in the GCC and is highly regarded worldwide for its ‘outstanding competence in the treatment of the support and locomotor system’.
In total the clinic sees more than 7000 patients a year, mostly for knee and hip replacements, but also for elbow, ankle, shoulder and spine surgery. Surgeons at the endo-clinic have implanted more than 130,000 joint replacements since the clinic opened in 1976.
The clinic was founded by Professor Buchholz, who is world-renown for starting hip replacement surgery, explained Dr Alaa Aljawabra, an orthopaedic specialist and trauma surgeon, at Helios Endo Clinic. It was the biggest centre for hip replacement at the time and is now considered the largest arthroplasty centre in the world.
The clinic is also specialised in treating infected joints.
Dr Aljawabra, speaking to Middle East Health, explained that Prof Buchholz was a pioneer in mixing antibiotics with the cement used in joint replacement to prevent infection, which has now become common practice.
The clinic sees around 150 to 200 international patients a year, mainly from Russia and the GCC countries, he said. “Some of our surgeons do operations in the Arabic countries and so the name of Endo Clinic has become well known in the GCC,” he said.
“Most of our international patients pay out of pocket and our rates are considerably cheaper than the US and even some hospitals in the UAE. In fact, international patients will pay the same rate as the local German patients,” he said. International patients interested in being treated at the Helios Endo Clinic should get hold of the International Patient Offi ce.
The clinic provides a full concierge service for international patients. Private rooms in the clinic are like hotel suites to ensure patients are comfortable.
Dr Aljawabra said that generally inpatient treatment takes about 8-10 days depending on the patient and the treatment required. Rehabilitation can take around three weeks, during which most patients will continue staying at the clinic, he added.
The clinic can accommodate 250 patients. And in the private section it can accommodate 33 patients. There are single, double and, for German health insurance purposes, a few triple rooms. The clinic also has two suites with a room for the patient and connecting room for accompanying relatives.
“We see about 70% of our international patients from April to September. They prefer to plan the operations during the summer months,” Dr Aljawabra said.
“Following treatment and rehabilitation, we stay in contact with our international patients to keep a check on how well the implant is performing.”
He noted that they do face some challenges with international patients. In many cases they are badly prepared for the treatment. “They do not know much about their problem and they often lack documentation, unlike the German patients. In many cases, they come to us to correct a procedure which has been poorly done in their home country – so we often see these difficult cases. They see us as gods and think we can do magic and fix anything,” Dr Aljawabra said with a smile.
University Medical Center – Hamburg Eppendorf
University Medical Center – Hamburg Eppendorf (UKE) was established in 1889 and provides a combination of research, teaching and clinical practice. UKE underwent a major redesign with construction of a new medical clinic in 2009 and is now regarded as one of the most modern medical facilities in Europe with a total of 80 departments, clinics, polyclinics and research institutes.
The modern building has the appearance of a hotel, rather than a hospital and does not have the antiseptic smell often associated with medical facilities.
The center has approximately 1600 beds, all in single or double rooms.
Interestingly, the new medical center has what they call a ‘patient boulevard’ – a wide corridor with shops, restaurants, post offi ce, bank, prayer room for Islamic patients and seating areas where patients and the families can relax.
Nearby are a series of consultation rooms where patients can meet with the doctors for the initial consultation.
International patients have been travelling to UKE for many years to seek treatment from their many renowned doctors and professors,which has lead the center to establish a comprehensive and well developed International Office. The Office provides an extensive range of services for international patients to support some of the unique issues faced by patients travelling from abroad, such as assistance with enquires about treatment, organising appointments, obtaining visas, arranging interpreters, preparing medical reports in different languages and so on.
“For international patients, we organize everything. We are in charge from the first request to discharge and we also handle the billing process in our office,” explained Jelena Bagnjuk who handles case management and marketing at the International Office.
“Before the patient arrives we plan all the treatment, so they don’t have to spend time waiting here while this is done. What is important is that we receive all the necessary documentation and medical reports from previous procedures,” she said.
Middle East Health spoke to Prof Dr Carsten Bokemeyer, Spokesperson of the Hubertus Wald Tumor Center and the University Cancer Center Hamburg (UCCH) about the cancer center and international patients coming from the Gulf region.
“We have two very large departments for haematology – Leukaemia and Stem Cell Transplants,” Prof Bokemeyer said. “Our department for allogenic transplants under the leadership of Prof Dr Nicolaus Kröger is the largest in Germany. We also have a large center for head and neck cancer, and we have a large department for GI (gastrointestinal) cancer treatment, among others.”
He added that UCCH has an advanced radio-oncology center which has been “really well equipped over the past few years and we have all that is required for chemotherapy”.
“Our Martini Klinik for prostate cancer is the largest in the world, measured by the number of operations,” he also added.
Prof Dr Carsten Bokemeyer, Medical Director of the Oncology Clinic, pointed out that the biggest advantage of the UCCH for patients is that they don’t have to be transferred between clinics during their course of treatment or have to explain everything repeatedly.
He emphasized the importance of their multidisciplinary teams as being one of the most important factors in their high rate of success in treating complex cancer cases. “The specialist and nursing teams work using an interdisciplinary process where the teams cooperate extremely closely to organize and discuss all cases together,” he said. Cancer treatments have improved exponentially over the course of the last 20 years. “New discoveries from the fields of molecular biology and genome research have made their way into everyday clinical treatment. Now, many more patients can receive a course of treatment tailored to their specific condition and greatly improve the chances of fully recovering.
“Intensive research is required to achieve such progress,” he said, adding that the research at the UCCH focuses on making new discoveries available to the patient as quickly as possible as well as focusing on the fields of prevention and early detection.
A cure for
“In addition to the 200 allogenic transplantations a year we are also doing around 80-100 autologous blood stem cell transplantations with high dose chemotherapy, particularly for lymphoma, multiple myeloma and patients with germ cell tumours,” he said, adding: “This is also one of the reference centers for young patients with germ cell tumours in Germany.
“Of course, in oncology there is a lot of innovation with new treatments and we offer some of these treatments within clinical trials,” he said.
Discussing stem cell transplant for leukaemia patients, Prof Dr Bokemeyer, explained that for the advanced procedure they perform, the patient is required to stay as an inpatient for around four weeks. “Following inpatient treatment, it isimportant for these patients to stay in the area as an outpatient – and we have various accommodations for this – for about three to four months. During this time, they will visit our outpatient department once a week and this is when we will start modulating the new immune system [from the stem cell graft] to avoid a relapse and to cure the disease.”
New cancer therapies
“We are developing specific tests to check early on whether these patients respond to these drugs, because they are very expensive,” he said.
“Another new approach in cancer care is that of personalized oncology, where we take additional biopsies from the tumour and do a specific molecular genomic profile and look for specific mutations in the tumour that can be treated with drugs that target that specific mutation.
“If the patient, the tumour, the mutation and the drug meet – it can be the best treatment for the patient.
“We are working with pharmaceutical companies on a clinical and pre-clinical basis with regards these drugs and biopsy profiling,” he added.
UKE provides a wide range of medical treatments with some of the most advanced technology available, with reference to the latest research and with many worldrenowned doctors and professors.
For a comprehensive list of treatments available at UKE and to get in touch with the International Office, visit: www.uke-io.de
UKE Pediatric Clinic
The new UKE Pediatric Clinic is expected to open later this year, while the current clinic continues to provide first-class medical treatment. Since 1990, the UKE Pediatric Clinic – in cooperation with the Interdisciplinary Clinic for Stem Cell Transplantation – has overseen more than 500 boys and girls receive either a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. The UKE Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Center is one of the largest of its kind in Germany.
For children suffering from cancer, a blood stem cell or bone marrow transplant (BMT) can be a lifeline. Both are invaluable methods of treating leukemia, congenital blood disorders and severe immune defects. A so-called HLA-identical donor is needed for such transplants. The donor may be a sibling or an unrelated person. If no suitable donor is found, then an HLA-haploidic stem cell transplant from the patient’s mother or father is also a possibility. Twelve percent of all bone marrow and stem cell donors are patient’s parents.
A research team, led by Prof Dr Ingo Müller, head of the UKE Pediatric Stem Cell Transplantation Clinic, is currently investigating why one parent may be a more suitable donor than the other.
“Only a few years ago we thought that fathers were the more suitable donors; now we know that the opposite is more often the case,” he explained. “We have discovered evidence that the cells transferred from the child to the mother during pregnancy play a pivotal role. Approximately 50% of mothers carry their child´s cells after birth. These mothers are the most suitable donors in the groups that we have investigated.”
This was especially relevant in the treatment of children suffering from leukemia. Their chance of survival was around 40% higher if the donating mother had a high level of the child’s cells.
Prof Müller explained: “The immunological mechanisms behind this finding will be investigated further with BMT Head of Research Prof Dr Boris Fehse, as part of a nationwide study. Over the course of the next two years a total of 10 major treatment centers in Germany will be taking part.”
Park Hyatt Hamburg
During our visit to Hamburg, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Hamburg. This 5-star luxury boutique hotel is the hotel of choice for Arab families accompanying a family member who has travelled to Hamburg for medical treatment.
Park Hyatt Hamburg is located on the Mönckebergstrasse in the historic Levantehaus. The hotel combines oldworld charm and maritime tradition with state-of-the-art conveniences and 21st-century interior design.
Situated in the heart of the city centre, the hotel is just a short, scenic stroll from Alster Lake, the vibrant Mönckebergstrasse shopping district and the exclusive design stores of Neuer Wall.
Hamburg Airport is 17 kilometres from the hotel and Hauptbahnhof railway station only 200 metres away.
Levantehaus was built in 1911/1912 by local architects as a “Kontorhaus”. These “Kontohäuser” were designed and built from 1886 to about 1938 as special offices for trading companies. These Hanseatic merchant buildings are distinguished by their designrelated room flexibility. During the Second World War, the historic building was destroyed by bombs but was rebuilt from 1948 to 1950, largely true to the original. In April 1998, the hotel was officially opened by the world-famous hotel chain Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.
The hotel features Hanseatic architecture and a sophisticated maritime elegance, typical of the city of Hamburg. It has 52 luxurious rooms, including 21 suites, and 31 residences for long-stay guests, some of which are duplex apartments with separate living and sleeping areas.
The residences can be used as office space and are equipped with the latest business facilities – internet, fax, answering machine, three phones and a large desk.
The design of the guestrooms resembles that of Hyatt hotels in Asia, especially those in Japan, being elegant and simple. In the bathroom, for example, instead of a regular wash basin, there is a white bowl placed on a slab of black granite.
The Mendelssohn Suite features a piano and open fireplace in the living room as well as a fully equipped kitchen so guests can serve home-cooked meals on the dining table in front of the fireplace. The suite connects to a double room, to provide extra accommodation for families.
This luxury boutique hotel houses the Apples Restaurant, Apples Bar with smoker’s lounge, and the Park Lounge where traditional afternoon tea is served at the open fireplace. The restaurant also has a private dining room for 24 guests and a summer courtyard.
The hotel also houses the Club Olympus Spa & Fitness – an exclusive club featuring an indoor 20-metre swimming pool, large heated whirlpool, traditional Finnish wood sauna, lowtemperature sanarium sauna, steam bath, cold plunge pool and novelty showers. An exercise studio, wellness area, massage treatments and a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art fitness and strength-training equipment are also available.
For more information, visit: www.hamburg.park.hyatt.com
|Date of upload: 11th Jan 2017|
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