Red Crescent, Red Cross choose Dubai

The UAE will become the regional logistic centre for all humanitarian activities of the Red Crescent and the Red Cross societies in the Middle East with Dubai Aid City as it regional hub.

The Gulf News reports that the Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) signed an agreement in Abu Dhabi in June to enhance logistical operations and share facilities to improve responses to humanitarian crises.

According to the agreement, the IFRC will use the RCA warehouse facility in Dubai Port Authority for its vehicle fleet. The RCA will also set up an office for the IFRC. The IFRC will benefit from RCA deals regarding the purchase of vehicles and the supply of relief items.

In return the IFRC will offer the RCA staff training in logistics and relief.

The two organisations signed and MoU with Dubai Aid City (DAC), the first free zone for humanitarian and aid organisations in the world. According to the MoU the two organisations will establish a facility at DAC.

Khalifa Nasser Al Suwaidi, Chair of the Board of Directors of the RCA, was quoted as saying “the agreements will help us improve our co-operation in the logistical field and provide a more effective and prompt response to humanitarian crises in the region”.

Barbera Castek, head of the DAC, said the government had allocated one million square metres of land to the project. She said 120 warehouses would be built for the storage of aid and a five-storey building would be home to the offices and conference halls.


Palliative care call

The Jordan Times reports that Her Majesty Queen Rania recently called for more volunteers and the extension of support groups for the provision of palliative care throughout the kingdom’s hospitals.

She made the call when she met staff and families at a hospice funded by Malath Foundation for Humanistic Care in Amman.

The Malath Foundation for Humanistic Care, a non-profit, non-governmental charity organisation, has partnered with the King Hussein Cancer Foundation to provide palliative care and counselling for terminally ill patients.
The hospice is the first-of-its-kind institution in the Arab world providing home-based palliative care to terminally ill patients and social and psychological counselling to their families.

Queen Rania noted that institutionalising Al Malath services and creating an independent centre would help broaden their services and extend them throughout the kingdom’s hospitals.

The Queen said a plan of action, which includes an awareness and fund-raising campaign, could help support staff and volunteers carry out their task in providing such services to preserve the dignity of terminally ill patients.

• Meanwhile, a recent study carried out by the Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, and published in BMC Palliative Care journal, found that a “patient-centred approach using rapid-cycle change was feasible and shows promise for improving the quality of end-of-life care”.
The study involved 36 seriously ill, hospitalised patients on teaching general medical inpatient units of a tertiary care hospital. The main outcome measure was participants’ ratings of satisfaction within different domains of care on follow-up interviews.

The results indicated that the proportion of participants who rated various aspects of their care as “excellent” or “very good” on initial interview was 72 per cent for overall care, 64 per cent for symptom control, 66 per cent for level of support, and 75 per cent for discussions about life sustaining treatments.

Patients and families identified many actionable steps for improvement such as; better control of pain and shortness of breath, better access to physicians and medical information, more help with activities of daily living, improving the patient’s environment, and shorter waits for nursing care, diagnosis, and treatment.

Following feedback to the clinical team, participants reported improvement in overall care (32 per cent), symptom control (44 per cent), and support (40 per cent). Only a minority had further discussions about life sustaining treatments.

Dr Peter Singer, who led the research, told BBC online: “The moral of this study - insert into the busy world of medicine a process to systematically listen to dying patients and their families, and act on their concerns.
“The care - and the perception of care - gets better. It may not be rocket science, but it seems to make a difference.”

He said the results should be further confirmed in a larger study with a control group, but pointed out that the intervention is so straightforward and simple we hope the publication will spur hospitals around the world to try this cheap, easy initiative to improve the care of dying patients.

For the full report “Can a good death be made better?” visit: www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpalliatcare


Accreditation double

The Dubai Herbal and Treatment Center (DH&TC) has become the first centre in the world to get a combined ISO certificate - ISO 9001:2000 for quality management and ISO 14001:1996 for environmental management.

Established in February 2003 under the auspices of HH General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defense, the DH&TC pro-vides allopathic and complimentary therapies including dermatology, traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

Dr Ali Ridha, Director General of DH&TC, said the centre offers a new concept of integrated healthcare in the UAE. The centre applied for ISO certification “to ensure best practice guidelines to help us provide a high standard of service to our clients”.

He said the ISO 9001:2000 will have an impact on how the centre manages its medical records, administrative practices and client care.

“As the clinic is founded upon the principles of natural treatments, we have a responsibility to be sensitive towards the environment. For ISO 14001 we looked at our activities and how they impact on the environment. Our plan is to regularly monitor and assess our practices and reduce any adverse reaction to the environment, such as energy and water consumption, paper consumption and clinical waste,” Dr Ridha said.

The on-site assessment was conducted by the British Standards Institution (BSI) in order to verify compliance to international standards.

For more information visit: www.dubaihtc.com


WHO collaboration

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently designated King Faisal Cancer Centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a collaborating centre.

As a collaborating centre it will form part of an international collaborative net-work carrying out activities in support of WHO’s mandate for international health work and its programme priorities.

Being a WHO collaborating centre also strengthens the country’s resources in terms of cancer information and services.

The mission and vision of the King Faisal Cancer Centre is to lessen the cancer burden in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the region through the integration and co-ordination of cancer services by adopting a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention, public education, early detection, evidence-based management guidelines, palliative care and clinical research.

WHO collaborating centres play a strategic role in helping the WHO meet their needs by contributing to the implementation of WHO programme priorities.


Helping hand for visually impaired

A UAE government initiative to assist the visually impaired was recently unveiled by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Minister of Defence.

In addition to providing training and advice to UAE nationals and residents, Tamkeen – which means empowerment – will also try to change employer attitudes towards visual impairment and get them to offer visually impaired people an opportunity to play a more constructive role in the work place.

“The percentage of visually impaired people gainfully employed in the corporate sector is almost negligible. Tamkeen will change this by giving tools and training to the visually impaired,” said Ahmed Bin Bayat, Director General of Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority.

Tamkeen focuses on three key areas of training in collaboration with some of the best names in the industry. In addressing the most vital area of communication skills, the organisation provides oral and written English-language training in partnership with the British Council.

Once a student attains proficiency in English, the student moves to a detailed IT training programme run in association with the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind.

The third area of training involves teaching soft skills such as personal development, interaction with colleagues and customers, sales techniques and presentation skills.

Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Director of Knowledge Village, where the training will take place, said: “We have received about 50 applications from individuals interested in joining. All training and support is given free of charge and the average capacity of each class is five to six people. The first batch is expected to graduate in September.”

For more information visit: www.tamkeen.ae


UAE fails to keep pace

The development of the health sector in the UAE cannot keep pace with the growth in population, according to the author of recent research into healthcare services in the region.

The research also showed that the UAE compares favourably with other Gulf states in healthcare services, but falls far short of top international standards. It pointed to a large gap between patient needs and medical services available in the region.

The research reported in the Gulf News, warned that with a population growth of around six per cent and the number of tourists visiting the UAE expected to treble by 2010, the demands placed on the healthcare sector will increase dramatically.

At present, there are less than two hospital beds available per 1,000 inhabitants in the UAE, whereas in Japan there are more than 16 and in Switzerland there are 18 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.

Elisabeth Heller, CEO of Heller Consult, which carried out the research, said despite local efforts to address this issue with projects like the Dubai Healthcare City, the gap remains large and it will take some time before it can be closed, she observed. A medical university would help boost the sector immensely, she said.


Stem cell storage

The UAE Ministry of Health is preparing to roll out a pioneering stem cell pro-gramme for the region in 2006.
According to Gulf News the ministry’s Department of Blood Transfusions and Research Services will store stem cells from umbilical cord blood for future use and research.

The facility will be built next to the Department of Blood Transfusion and Research Services in Sharjah where it will share the laboratory, serological testing, equipment and technological amenities.

Once they are extracted from blood, the stem cells will be stored for up to 25 years either in liquid nitrogen or in a dry freezing system at a temperature of -180ÞC.

Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, the Director of the Department of Blood Trans-fusion and Research Ser-vices, was quoted as saying: “The service will be available to both private and public sector hospitals in the country. This is a humanitarian service to help patients in need.”

Sheikh Ahmed Obaid Al Qubaisi, a leading Islamic scholar told Gulf News, Islam is not against drawing blood from an umbilical cord for future treatment.

There will be three storage options: one will allow the mother to store umbilical cord blood for her child and his/her siblings. Another will allow her to store the blood for her family and first-degree relatives. The third option allows the mother to donate the blood to the cord bank, where it can used to help patients worldwide.
Dr Al Amiri said the service will only cost around Dhs2,000 for the treatment and allow us to sell the units to other countries through a computer-based registry panel.


Market worth US$74b

The Middle East’s healthcare market is worth an estimated of US$74 billion according to executives of the region’s leading medical exhibition and conference and is proving one of the fastest-growing and most attractive markets for the world’s hospital equipment and services companies.

Riding the wave of this global interest, executives at Arab Health have reported that the 2005 show in Dubai is expected to be larger by 25 per cent than this year’s, with more than 500 companies from 34 countries already registered for the event.

Interest in the sector is being boosted by a number of major medical projects within the Middle East, including Dubai Healthcare City and the International Medical Center in Jeddah; an expanding population; and a developing potential for regional healthcare tourism.

“The Middle East’s healthcare sector is expanding rapidly, and recognition of the impact this will have on both the economies and the lives of the people of this region is reflected in the ongoing success of Arab Health, now in its 13th year,” said John Hassett, IIR Exhibitions Director, healthcare division.

Arab Health 2005 is expected to draw exhibitors froma round the world. More than 50 countries were represented in 2004, including 26 national pavilions, with a large number of Europe’s largest healthcare organisations participating.

Arab Health 2005 will be held at the Dubai Inter-national Exhibition Centre from February 12-15.


ISO first

In a first for the GCC, Healthcare Solutions (HCS), a leading provider of healthcare information solutions and services in the Middle East, was recently awarded ISO 9001: 2000 Certification.

Healthcare Solutions is a leading healthcare information consulting firm specialising in supporting healthcare systems integration, implementation, reporting, billing/insurance, and operating managed healthcare organisations. Its clients include the Depart-ment of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS) in Dubai.

The company has been involved in several crucial healthcare projects in the region and was partly responsible for setting up DOHM’s Integrated Healthcare Information System (IHIS), which allows net-working and system integration of Dubai’s four major public hospitals and 20 healthcare centres with DOHMS.

Amr Mostafa, General Manager, Healthcare Solutions, said: “Being the first healthcare service provider in the GCC to be ISO 9001:2000 certified is a formidable achievement. This certification offers clear proof of an organisation’s adherence to quality management practices.”

The ISO 9001:2000 standard represents an international consensus on good management practices with the aim of ensuring that the organisation can, time and time again, deliver the product or services that meet the client’s quality requirements.


Nursing shortage

Gulf News reports that hospitals and medical centres in the UAE are reeling from such an acute shortage of nurses and that around half the number of available beds in the UAE are unoccupied.

The newspaper quotes medical sources as saying medical centres are not admitting patients to their full capacity because they do not have adequate nurses to attend to them.

Nurses leave every month for the US, Canada or Europe, and hospital managements are struggling to replace them due to lengthy procedures.

This comes despite the Ministry of Health establishing nursing institutes across the UAE in an attempt to boost the number of nursing staff. However, according to officials, UAE national women are not interested in the profession and only a small number join the institutes.

The profession is dominated by Filipinas and Indians and only four per cent of UAE nurses are nationals.

Officials said the best way to solve the problem is to add a clause in recruitment letters, stating nurses must work for a certain number of years with the ministry. Those who resign must face heavy penalties and all their dues should be withheld.


Medical college for Saudi

The Saudi Gazette reports that the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has established a college of medicine at King Fahd Medical City, Riyadh.

Next year the new college will receive its first 50 male secondary school graduates. The students will study general medicine.

Female students will be admitted in the second academic year.

The new college will be a nucleus for a number of medical colleges the ministry intends establishing in major cities across the country.

• Meanwhile, the Bahrain Ministry of Health announced that the King Hamad General Hospital will open in 2006 on the state’s second largest island, Muharraq.

The state hospital will be used as a training hospital for the planned Medical University of Bahrain to be run be the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.


Spotlight on Hepatitis C

Hoffmann-La Roche recent-ly launched the Pegassist patient support programme, the first initiative of its kind in the Middle East to raise awareness for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV).

The programme, is being launched in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Yemen. It will be progressively extended to other Gulf States.

Pegassist is aimed at the public, the patient and healthcare providers through the provision of information booklets and videos as well as the establishment of call centre help lines staffed by dedicated health professionals.

Call centre numbers are:
• UAE - 800 40 38
• Kuwait - 939 1114
• Bahrain - 800 726
• Qatar - 0800 971 001
• Oman and Yemen - 00971 4 3320 339

HCV is a potentially serious condition which if left untreated could kill over the course of 20 years. There are seven known viral Hepatitis strains: A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Of these HCV is believed to be the leading cause of chronic liver disease.

The virus can only enter the body through infected blood, such as needle-stick injury; blood transfusions prior to mid-1992; drug needle sharing; haemodialysis; acupuncture, body-piercing and tattooing with unsterilised needles; unprotected sex, though it is not often spread by this means.

HCV symptoms only occur in about five per cent of cases. It is thus often referred to as the “silent killer”. The only way to diagnose HCV is via a blood test.

“With the Pegassist Patient Support programme, we are trying to raise awareness of this disease and encourage people to get tested,” says Rima Khadra, Product Manager, Hoff-mann-La Roche, Dubai. “It is very important to inform people in the region that this virus is serious, but early detection and treatment can increase chances for a cure.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 170 million people worldwide are infected. Studies show that 15-20 per cent of infected patients are able to clear HCV completely, however 20-25 per cent become chronically infected.

According to WHO, 0.83 per cent of UAE’s population is infected with HCV, 2.8 per cent in Qatar, 0.9 per cent in Oman, 3.3 per cent in Kuwait and more than 12 per cent in Egypt.

Prior to 1998 treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C (CHC) had been with interferon monotherapy, however the newer pegylated interferon treatments, such as Pegasys, have proven more effective. For the physician the treatment offers excellent efficacy, an improved side-effect profile and better patient compliance.

For more information visit: www.pegassist.com


Study supports valsartan

Doctors in the United Arab Emirates were briefed in late June on the results of one of the world’s largest clinical trials which studied two treatment regimens for high blood pressure, following the return of a number of the region’s most prominent specialists from a major conference in Paris.

The VALUE (Valsartan Antihypertensive Long-term Use Evaluation) study, published online in The Lancet in June, was designed to investigate whether the angiotensin-receptor blocker valsartan would reduce car-diac illness and death more than the calcium antagonist amlodipine among 15,245 patients with high blood pressure and high cardiovascular risk.

The prospective, double-blind, randomised, active-controlled study was conducted at 934 clinical sites in 31 countries.

Despite blood pressure differences, especially early in the trial in favour of the amlodipine-based regimen, there was no statistically significant difference in the primary composite cardiac morbi-dity and mortality end-point.

One of the major findings in this trial is that the Diovan-based (valsartan) regimen was associated with a greater reduction in new onset of diabetes by 23 per cent versus the amlodipine-based regimen.

Given the comparatively high incidence of diabetes in the region – with 3.5 million diabetes type II sufferers registered in 2004 - specialists have welcomed the potential long-term implications of the VALUE study.

“Data from the VALUE trial is tremendously valuable to those of us involved in the treatment of patients with high blood pressure, because it highlights the need for earlier and more aggressive blood pressure treatment for patients at high cardiovascular risk,” said Dr Fahed Kouli, Nephrologist at the American Hospital, Dubai, UAE, who attended the Paris event.


Keyhole surgery excellence

The American Hospital Dubai (AHD) is establishing a one-stop Centre of Excellence for Minimally Invasive, or keyhole, Surgery, which is set to benefit patients in the UAE and across the Middle East.

The centre, the first of its kind in the region, will be fully operational by the end of the year.

According to a hospital spokesperson, AHD has invested substantial resources in laparoscopic equipment and the training of support staff, as part of its expansion programme to serve the region. Currently, 17 per cent of the hospital’s patients come from outside the UAE.

Dr Toufik Tabbara, an advanced laparoscopic sur-geon at AHD, said: “Laparoscopic surgery has been used for many years and has become the standard, but American Hospital Dubai is pioneering the creation of a multidisciplinary surgical and support team, under one roof.”

Surgeons from the hospital’s 45-strong team of full-time physicians, specialising in a range of medical fields, including gynaecology, general surgery, urology, orthopaedic surgery, vascular/thoracic surgery and ENT, will operate as a multi-disciplinary team within the Centre of Excellence, supported by highly qualified nursing staff.

Dr Tabbara pointed out that the centre’s “multidisciplinary team of doctors allows us to act quickly and flexibly. For example, if a surgeon performing abdominal keyhole surgery discovers a gynaecological problem, then he can call the centre’s gynaecologist to deal with the problem immediately”.

The centre has already pioneered gastric banding and gastric bypass procedures as an alternative in treating obesity, involving a team of surgeons, a dietician and psychiatrist.