Dh1m for Thalassaemia

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) has contributed Dh1 million (US$ 272,000) to support the “UAE Free of Thalassaemia by 2012 project”. The announcement followed the raising of Dh1 million at the Big Breakfast event organised recently across the United Arab Emirates in support of thalassaemia. 

DHCC took part in the Big Breakfast, during which more than 100,000 people sat down for the breakfast across the UAE in order to raise funds to help sufferers of the life-threatening disease. With the DHCC donation, a total of Dh2 million was raised for this humanitarian initiative.

Bahrain signs FCTC 

Bahrain is set to join the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC), following the ratification of the convention by Parliament according to the Gulf Daily News. 

The objective of this convention and its protocols is to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. 

It does this by providing a framework for tobacco control measures to be implemented by parties at the national, regional and international levels in order to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. 

Bahrain’s ratification means that the entire GCC is now party to the convention, all other GCC countries having signed the convention earlier. 

Amgen sets up in Dubai 

Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, has opened a regional office in Dubai. All Amgen commercial activities in the Middle East and Africa will be managed from Dubai’s Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech), the region’s first ‘free zone’ dedicated to the biotechnology industry. 

“Our intent is to be the biotech industry’s premier player in Middle East and Africa”, said Ugo de Francesco, Amgen’s vice president. “We want to ensure that as many patients as possible get access to our innovative therapies that address medical needs in this part of the world. We aim to have a positive social and economic impact on local and national communities and customers in this region.” 

Afghan polio 

More than 2 million children under the age of five were vaccinated against the polio virus in early May in southern, southeastern and eastern Afghanistan. 

The campaign was initiated following reports of a sixth polio case this year in the southern province of Kandahar, the health ministry has said. 

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, spearheaded the campaign, according to IRIN news. 

More than 15,000 health workers were due to travel house-to-house in 11 provinces - Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul, Urozgan, Ghazni, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Nangarhar, and Kunar, UNICEF said. 

Bernt Aasen, UNICEF’s representative in Afghanistan, said: “Unless we eradicate polio in Afghanistan, the virus will continue to threaten development, disabling children, placing greater strain on families, and adding to the pressure on national health resources.” 

Commenting on the cases of polio identified in Kandahar in April, Aasen said: “The new cases we have seen may be a result of improved monitoring and surveillance put in place by health authorities.” 

Herceptin trials

The results of clinical trials for the treatment of HER2 positive breast cancer were presented in Dubai, UAE, recently. The trials (Randomized Trial of Trastuzumab [Herceptin] following adjuvant chemotherapy in women with HER2 Positive Breast Cancer – New England Journal of Medicine 353:16 2005) show that treatment with Herceptin following standard chemotherapy reduces the risk of cancer recurrence by about 50%. 

The trials were conducted on nearly 12,000 patients around the globe. 

HER2 positive breast cancer is a distinct form of the disease that affects approximately 20% to 30% of women with breast cancer and is associated with a high relapse rate. 

Dr André Rizk, an oncologist at American Hospital Dubai, said: “These findings have transformed expectations and have been heralded as a great advancement in breast cancer treatment. Reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence almost 50% is a significant breakthrough.” 

Trastuzumab (Herceptin) is a monoclonal antibody that works by binding to the HER2 receptors on the surface of the cancer cells and destroying them resulting in the shrinkage of the tumour. Since 1998, Herceptin has been used to treat more than 230,000 HER2-positive patients with metastatic breast cancer worldwide. Herceptin is the only medication approved to specifically target the HER2 positive disease. 

Khat warning 

A paper published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine has warned about the severe effects of khat chewing and called for increased awareness among doctors and the public. 

Khat leaves are used recreationally by migrant communities from East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, particularly by Somalis and Yemenis. 

“Khat chewing releases amphetamine-like ingredients, cathinone and cathin, which release serotonin and dopamine in the central nervous system,” said Dr Sagar Saha of London’s Heart Hospital. 

“Long term use results in increasing risk of heart attack, liver damage as well gingivitis and tooth loss. Research also indicates that heavy khat chewing increases the risk of oesophageal cancer. 

“There is little medical awareness of the harmful effects of khat and we need to put that right urgently,” he said. Khat is the fresh leaves of Catha edulis, a shrub grown in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. 

The paper by Dr Sagar Saha and Dr Clare Dollery describe the case of a 33-yearold man who used khat heavily. The man was admitted to hospital with a heart attack and developed severe irreversible damage to his heart muscle. 

Dr Kamran Abbasi, editor of the JRSM, said: “Unless there is a public awareness campaign, khat will continue to cause serious harm to the health and prospects of people [who use it]. The difficulty is that khat is seen as an integral part of cultural life for these communities, and any campaign will have to be culturally sensitive.” 

- ‘Severe ischaemic cardiomyopathy associated with khat chewing’ by S Saha and C Dollery is published in the June 2006 issue (Vol. 99) of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 

Health units for quake victims 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) handed out 23 newly constructed Basic Health Units (BHUs) on 17 June to health authorities in earthquake-affected Pakistani-administered Kashmir, IRIN News reports from Muzaffarabad. 

“All these BHUs – equipped with medicine, supplies and furniture – are currently operational, but we are giving [them] officially to the government to take care of the maintenance and staffing process,” Dr Khalif Bile, WHO representative in Pakistan, said. 

“The 23 BHUs will provide basic health services for some 400,000 people in Muzaffarabad, Nelum, Bagh and Poonch districts,” Dr Bile explained. 

The 8 October earthquake in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province killed more than 75,000 people and injured thousands. More than 3.5 million people were rendered homeless across the region by the disaster. 

The WHO is also in the process of providing 12 larger prefabricated Rural Health Centres (RHC) in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Out of these, seven will be established in Muzaffarabad district in the near future. 

Meanwhile, the WHO, in collaboration with other aid organisations such as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the International Committee of the Red Crescent (ICRC), the UK-based medical relief organisation, Merlin, and government health authorities, is planning to establish nine cholera camps in Muzaffarabad and Neelum districts in case of an outbreak of the disease. 

Epidemic warning 

A leading cardiologist has warned that the Middle East region is on the edge of an epidemic of heart disease. Dr Wael Almahmeed, consultant cardiologist and deputy director of medical services at Sheikh Khalifah Medical City in Abu Dhabi, UAE, issued the warning during a cardiology congress in Dubai attended by more than 160 doctors from across the region 

The congress sponsored by Novartis and organised by Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) is part of a series of on-going Continuing Medical Education events by HMSDC. Specialists from Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates attended the congress. 

The meeting was called to discuss the disturbing rise in the incidence of heart disease and associated risk factors in the region. 

Dr Almahmeed presented comparative results from studies conducted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). One of the highlights of these studies was that half of the subjects studied were unaware they suffered from cardiac risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes. This implies there are many people in the region walking around unaware they are at serious risk of developing cardiac disease. 

“Looking at the research, our feeling is that we could be on the edge of a potentially serious epidemic of heart-related ailments in the Middle East, particularly since so many of the subjects were unaware of their conditions. Problems like hypertension or even diabetes can be asymptomatic in the early stages, so patients are unaware of the problems they face,” said Dr Almahmeed. 

Jordan road fatalities 

The Jordan Times reports from Amman that the Public Security Department (PSD) will implement a one-year plan designed to reduce the number of road accident fatalities in the country. 

“Our aim is to decrease the number of traffic fatalities from 11.6 to every 10,000 vehicles in 2005 to 11 for every 10,000 by the end of this year,” PSD Director Lt Gen Mohammad Aitan said. 

Diabetes awareness 

Dubai Healthcare City in association with American University of Beirut Medical Centre, the Mayo Clinic and Johnson & Johnson, launched the diabetes and heart disease campaign in Dubai’s shopping malls in May and June. 

The campaign aimed to raise awareness for controlling the ABC’s of diabetes: ‘A’ for A1C test, a test that measures average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months; ‘B’ for blood pressure; and ‘C’ for cholesterol. Educational materials were distributed to inform visitors about the causes and management of diabetes and heart disease. 

Diabetes is a major health problem in the UAE affecting 25% of the population, according to national statistics.

Bahrain’s Health Oasis

Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News reports the development of a Health Oasis on the island state. The Health Oasis will include a five-star hotel, leisure and shopping facilities, a cluster of private and public healthcare facilities including cardiology and cardiac surgery treatments, cancer treatments, mental health treatments, dependency treatments, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, infertility treatments, imaging systems and others. 

The announcement was made at a briefing at The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Medical University of Bahrain (RCSI-MUB), which with its new permanent campus under construction in Muharraq and the adjoining King Hamad General Hospital, also under construction, will form key components of the Health Oasis. 

The new campus, due to be completed next year, is expected to position RCSIMUB as one of the most advanced medical universities in the Middle East. 

Emaar to build hospitals 

Dubai-based Emaar, the world’s largest property developers, has decided the enter the healthcare arena with the announcement that they will be investing some Dh18.35 billion (US$5 billion) over the next 10 years in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) and South Asia markets. The plan is to develop and manage around 100 hospitals each with 200 bed capacities as well as super medical specialities in key centres.

Emaar chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar said: “Our detailed business plans for the healthcare business aims to meet the fast growing demand for healthcare infrastructure and services in the targeted markets. 

“As the target region experiences massive population growth, the demand on its healthcare infrastructure will grow further. Unable to cope with this demand, local governments are now keenly pursuing plans to privatise healthcare services. Emaar will help meet these challenges by delivering quality medical care.” 

Emaar will provide the infrastructure as well as manage the administration and operations of its hospitals, clinics and medical centres. In addition, it will form strategic partnerships with established healthcare institutions and providers. These partners will ensure the presence of internationally qualified doctors, staff and specialists to set best practice standards in the regional healthcare industry. 

Mandatory insurance 

The General Authority for Health Services (GAHS) for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi announced in June that it had received approval on the Code of Regulations of the Health Insurance Policy which will eventually benefit more than 500,000 expatriates starting from July. Under the terms of the law, employees and their dependents, including spouse and three children under the age of 18 years, will now be provided private health insurance by their employer. 

“The Abu Dhabi government aims to provide its citizens with the highest standard of living, including the provision of world class healthcare services for residents and nationals alike,” said Ahmed Mubarak Al Mazrouie general manager at the GAHS in Abu Dhabi. “From 1 July, those companies which employ more than 1,000 staff will be obliged to take part in the scheme which will make the lowest paid, the first to benefit from the law.” 

The roll-out of the Abu Dhabi Health Insurance Regulation will be in two phases. The first phase sees companies employing 1,000 or more staff and government or quasi-governmental organisations required to comply from July 2006. In phase 2, which begins in January 2007, companies with less than 1,000 employees will have to take part in the scheme. 

“Employers and sponsors are liable to ensure their staff are covered by health insurance and will be personally liable to cover costs of staff who lack an authorised health insurance policy approved by the GAHS,” Al Mazrouie warned. 

Free hospital 

A new state-of-the-art hospital that will provide free-of-charge medical services to those who cannot afford treatment is to be built in Abu Dhabi, UAE, according to a report in the Khaleej Times. 

Abdulla Mohammed Al Mahmood, manager of projects and Developmental Department at the UAE Red Crescent, was quoted as saying that the hospital will be open to nationals and expatriates, with priority given to residents of the UAE and emergency cases. 

The hospital is expected to be operational by the third quarter 2007. 

He said an initial budget of Dh250 million (US$68 million) has been set aside for this humanitarian project, adding that the high-tech hospital would provide medical services in nearly all major specialisations including paediatrics, internal medicine, trauma, obstetrics and gynaecology, ophthalmology, surgery and dentistry. 

64-slice CT for AHD The American Hospital Dubai has recently installed a Philips Brilliance CT 64- channel imaging system. The advanced scanner has added a new dimension to the UAE’s imaging, diagnostic and screening capabilities. 

The 64-slice CT scanner produces outstanding threedimensional images of the whole body in 35 seconds, including moving organs such as the heart. The multi-million dollar system enhances the clinical capability of the hospital and significantly improves the diagnostic process for the physician, whilst providing greater speed, comfort and convenience for patients. 

The technology is particularly exciting for studying the beating heart, providing the first clear non-invasive images of the heart and its major vessels without the need of slowing the heart beat with medication. The scans can be timed to use only images gathered between contractions, so that the heart and its vessels can be seen without the blurring caused by motion. 

Dr Fouad Azoury, chairman of the department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the American Hospital Dubai, said: “This new generation of scanners is going to revolutionise the way radiologists and cardiologists detect and diagnose heart and vascular diseases.” 

Call for better security

A report in the Arab News newspaper in May calls for the improvement of security at all the health centers in the region following the murder of a Saudi woman at a health center in Riyadh. 

The newspaper quotes Abdul Aziz Al-Dukhayyil, director of health affairs in Riyadh region, as saying the ministries of health and finance should allocate more funds to improve security at all health centers in the region. 

Al-Dukhayyil said that security men at health centers were not equipped to confront possible armed attackers. 

The woman was reportedly stabbed to death by her former husband in front of several health workers at the Al-Marwa Health Center in Riyadh. 

Arab world heart study 

The UAE Heart Network announced recently that, it will start the biggest ever survey in the Arab world to study the level of knowledge people have about their risk of acquiring cardiovascular diseases (CVD). This survey called “From the Heart” will be carried out in collaboration with the International Heart Foundation and will take place across the GCC. 

The study will be conducted by UK market study firm McFadden International which has a network of affiliations in the region. 

The survey will randomly select 20,000 people from all GCC countries and the results are expected to be presented to Ministry of Health by the end of September. 

The initiative is not intended for a scientific paper, but rather will assess the level of public knowledge regarding CVD, in order to develop a collective policy to combat the problem in the Arab world. 

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in UAE. Almost 17 million people die from CVD every year worldwide. This number is higher than that for HIV/AIDS and all types of cancer combined yet it is one of the most underestimated and ignored conditions in the UAE. 

Dr Bin Brek of Dubai’s Department of Health and Medical Services, said: “It is our intention to educate people and empower them with the medical knowledge that can save their lives. This is crucial because people have to learn the importance of knowing their cholesterol levels, especially if their family has a medical history of heart diseases. Generally people past the age of 30, should check their cholesterol level annually and follow up with regular check up if their levels are above normal. Cardiovascular diseases are preventable and treatable if the patient has a healthy diet, exercises daily and follows medical prescription and advice.” 

Disaster response team 

A Crisis and Disaster Management Team has been set up in Dubai to deal with any potential crises, Gulf News reported in June. 

The team will be led by Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai Police Chief. 

The deputy chief of Dubai Police will be the team’s deputy chairman.Lt Gen Dhahi told Gulf News: “The team will deal with any crises which endanger lives. It will handle environmental disasters, natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and any other disasters.

It will also deal with unnatural disasters or man-made disasters.” The team’s policy and plans are expected to be in place by September. 

Clinical complex for DHCC 

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) has announced the launch of Al Razi – a complex of multi-specialty clinical buildings. 

The complex will have the capacity to accommodate 130 healthcare service providers and 1,500 healthcare professionals. 

DHCC is inviting healthcare professionals and operators in the region to relocate their practices to the Al Razi Medical Complex which is dedicated to outpatient surgical clinics, analytical and diagnostic laboratories, outpatient clinics and imaging laboratories. 

Al Razi Medical Complex marks DHCC’s continued expansion as an important regional hub for the healthcare industry. It will be located within a professional group of dedicated clinical providers at the Academic Medical Center containing the University Teaching Hospital, Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC), clinical research in the Dubai Harvard Foundation for Medical Research and other specialty hospitals.

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