Qatar Report

Healthcare in transition

On the back of new-found wealth from its massive oil and gas reserves, Qatar is implementing fundamental changes to it healthcare system with the building of several new hospitals, the establishment of world class medical education and clinical research facilities, the reorganisation of its healthcare administration and the digitalisation of it healthcare system among other modifications. Middle East Health reports.

The State of Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world per capita and, on the back of this new found wealth, is radically transforming the country from what was once a small desert backwater into one which is seeing rapid development and advancement of the Qatari community through socioeconomic, environmental and human development programmes.

Qatar is the world’s largest producers of liquified natural gas (LNG) and by 2010 is expected to account for onethird of the world’s LNG supply (US Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs). The scale of this small country’s wealth from LNG revenue is phenomenal. In 2008 the International Monetary Fund placed it number one in the world when ranked by its gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita. At 85,868 international dollars (IMF’s World Economic Outlook Database-April 2009) it is way ahead of countries like Norway in third place with $53,541, the United States (6th place, $46,859), UAE (14th, 38,830) and Saudi Arabia (37th, $23,834).

With this wealth Qatar has embarked on a number of sweeping socio-economic development programmes to fulfil the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to provide a prosperous, vigorous and environmentally sustainable economy with “social justice, stability and equal opportunity for all Qataris” based on the Permanent Constitution, which Qatari citizens approved via public referendum in April 2003 and which came into force in June 2005.

The Qatar National Vision is founded on four pillars – human development, social development, economic development and environmental development. To achieve these ambitious goals the vision promotes, among other things, education, responsible use of natural resources, environmental protection and superlative healthcare.

In 1995, the Emir of Qatar, HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, established the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. One of the cornerstones of the Foundation is Education City on the outskirts of Doha, the capital and home to most of the Qatari population.

Education City

Education City comprises a network of branch campuses of some of the world’s leading education institutions, such as Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar; University of Calgary - Qatar; Texas A&M University - Qatar; Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar; Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar; and the Qatar Science & Technology Park, among others.

Spread across 14 square kilometres, this giant campus aims to serve as a pivot of educational excellence in the region, instructing students in fields of critical importance to the GCC region. It is also conceived of as a forum, where the universities share research and facilities, not only with each other, but also with businesses and institutions in public and private sectors.

The master plan of the campus was designed by world renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, who also designed a number of the existing buildings. Around one-third of the scheme has been completed and the rest is due for completion by the end of 2010.

Healthcare in Qatar

Government Sector

Investment in healthcare is a key priority for the State of Qatar and this is made apparent by the large US$2.9 billion budget, which was allocated for Health in 2008/9. Qatar has embarked on a major healthcare reform programme which will see, among other things, the development of Medical City in Doha which will be home to several new hospitals and as such the city will see a large expansion in the number of hospital beds and increased hospital specialisation. The government will also implement a pioneering e-health programme across its hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Supreme Council for Health

The healthcare reforms are being overseen by the newly established Supreme Council for Health of which the Minister of Health is a member.

The Supreme Council is responsible for health policies, standards and regulations, public health, national health planning, and primary care.

Hamad Medical Corporation

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the premier nonprofit healthcare provider in Doha, Qatar. It was established by Emiri decree in 1979 and manages five highly specialised hospitals, namely, Hamad General Hospital, Rumailah Hospital, Women’s Hospital, Al Amal Hospital and Al Khor Hospital, as well as 24 primary healthcare centres. Since its establishment, HMC has rapidly developed medical facilities capable of providing state-ofthe- art diagnosis and treatment of diseases that previously could only be managed in overseas medical centres.

HMC provides quality and cost-efficient health care for all patients regardless of nationality, in line with the State of Qatar’s pledge of “Health for All”. For this purpose, HMC implements a policy of continuous improvement of all management systems and patient care protocols.

HMC has recently been accredited by the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI). HMC, as the largest health care provider, provides input and advice to the Supreme Council for Health on a broad range of health issues ranging from development of new and existing facilities, service development needs, workforce needs, and Qatar’s health status as measured by patient volumes and care outcomes. HMC also makes annual budget submissions to the Supreme Council for the delivery of public health care in Qatar.


However, HMC is transforming and it is on the brink of a new era in healthcare provision.

“HMC has embarked on a journey of transition from a centralised management system to a decentralised model of management within an integrated health system,” explained a spokesperson for HMC.

This new system will empower individual hospitals to rapidly adapt to local needs by assuming all operational responsibilities. This new direction aims to hold individual hospitals accountable for their performance by establishing measurement systems and monitoring metrics in areas such as clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

All five of the hospitals that HMC manages are being extended, upgraded and refurbished and six new hospitals are currently under construction.

Adaptability and accountability

The transition at HMC involves a move away from a centralised management system to a decentralised model of management within an integrated health system, which empower individual hospitals to rapidly adapt to local needs by assuming all operational responsibilities. Individual hospitals will be held accountable for their performance by establishing measurement systems and monitoring metrics in areas such as clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Primary Health Care

Primary Health Centres are no longer within HMC and are under the direction of the Supreme Council for Health. Nonetheless, HMC will work closely with these Centres to ensure clinical co-operation in sharing patient information, effective referrals between primary and acute care, as well as discharge back to the primary caregiver.


HMC says the vendor selection for the Hospital Information System should be completed in July 2009 and the target date for completion of the HIS roll out is 2012. The digital network, when implemented, will provide an integrated electronic medical record system which will move Qatar’s healthcare system to a digital environment with all the benefits and efficiencies that such a system provides.

Health insurance

Qatar has announced its intention to implement a health insurance system for the nation. Work is currently underway to consult with all key stakeholders to develop the appropriate model of insurance, both structural and financial. This is a national project conducted by the Ministry of Finance and the Supreme Council for Health, and overseen by the whole of Government. An HMC spokesperson explained that the intention is to introduce the insurance scheme as soon as possible after modelling is finalised.

Other government health facilities include Aspetar, a sports medicine centre, and Sidra, a medical research centre due to be completed in 2011.

Other Government Facilities


Apetar is a state-of-the art specialised Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital offering medical treatment and other services such as rehabilitation to all sports players. In 2008 Aspetar was officially accredited FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence for international football players. The accreditation was based on the centre’s exceptional clinical, educational and research expertise, as well as their practical involvement in the care of teams and their active commitment to preventing injuries.

Dr Mohammed GA Al Maadheed, Director General of Aspetar, on acceptance of the accreditation said: “The investment in world class facilities, initially supported by an international advisory panel, has ensured that Aspetar has attracted a multinational staff with vast expertise. This has resulted in an environment second to none for the treatment of football injuries and illness across the continuum of care. Furthermore, we hope that this combination will ensure that Aspetar significantly contributes to the body of knowledge being accumulated by F-MARC (FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre ) and the Medical Centre Network.”

Qatar University – College of Pharmacy

Qatar University was established in 1977 and offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across 7 colleges. The newest addition is the College of Pharmacy which was initiated to meet the country’s growing demand for qualified pharmacists. The first students were enrolled in 2007. The college currently offers a 5-year BSc (Pharm) degree and has approval for a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, which is expected to commence in 2011.

Facilities & Institutions at Education City


Sidra Medical and Research Center, due to open in 2012, will be an ultra modern, all-digital academic medical centre. Sidra will be funded by a US$7.9 billion endowment from Qatar Foundation, the largest endowment of a medical and research centre anywhere in the world. It will offer world-class clinical care, medical training and biomedical research.

Sidra will be the primary teaching venue for trainee doctors at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

Biomedical research will be an important component of Sidra, which reflects a national desire for Qatar to develop expertise in this field and contribute to the creation of scientific knowledge on a global scale.

According to a spokesperson for Sidra, research will begin prior to Sidra’s opening. In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Hamad Medical Corporation and other local and international healthcare and research institutions, Sidra’s research efforts are expected to be underway by the time the facility opens its doors to its first patients.

Initially, Sidra will conduct research in three areas:

● Pregnancy and infertility to help improve maternal and infant health in all phases of pregnancy and reduce the incidence of genetically-based abnormalities

● Developmental and preventive health to target the needs of children, including prevention and control of juvenile diabetes

● Women’s health to focus on diseases that have a high incidence of morbidity and mortality in adult women

Qatar Science & Technology Park

Key to Qatar Foundation’s philosophy of excellence is the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), which opened officially in March this year. Qatar Foundation has built this vast state-of-the-art facility at Education City, comprising 45,000 square metres of office and laboratory space to serve as a crucible for scientific research and commercialisation of discoveries.

Dr Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman of QSTP, described the science and technology park as “an engine that drives forward applied research and technology development”.

“We are creating an environment and the means to build human capital and spawn new technology-based industries; the building blocks of the government’s long-term vision to create a post-carbon economy,” Dr Maini said.

At the opening ceremony, His Highness The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said: “As we have planned for our national vision by the year 2030, we are confident that QSTP, as a component of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, will be a tributary for human development, an incubator of creativity and innovation, a safe haven for free scientific research, a magnet for national and international expertise, and a space where cultures and ethnicities integrate.”

Dr Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation, noted that QSTP was a vital component of Qatar Foundation’s master plan.

“Since the inception of Qatar Foundation, we have seen the building blocks of a knowledge-based society emerge at our pioneering project: Education City. We have now begun to fulfil the second element of our mission – science – by creating in Qatar an entire, full-fledged research environment,” he said.

Tenants at QSTP include: EADS, ExxonMobil, GE, Microsoft, Shell, Total and others.

Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar

Weill Cornell Medical College - Qatar (WCMC-Q) was established in partnership with the Qatar Foundation. Situated at Education City, WCMC-Q is part of the Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York and is the first American institution to offer its MD degree overseas. The medical college offers a complete and integrated educational programme, comprising a two-year premedical programme, followed by a four-year medical programme, with teaching by Cornell faculty.

In May this year the WCMC-Q announced the graduation of its second class of physicians and the awarding of the Cornell MD degree to 17 students from 10 nationalities – Qatar, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Tunisia and the United States.

WCMC-Q, in partnership with the Qatar Foundation and the MoH is working to establish a biomedical research programme which will see 120 scientists, technicians and support staff in place within five years. Dr Javaid Sheikh, interim Dean of WCMC-Q, explained that the programme will support research in the fields of genetics and molecular medicine, women’s and children’s health, gene therapy, stem cells and vaccine development.

The biomedical research unit will work in close cooperation with HMC and Sidra Medical and Research Center and will use Qatar Science and Technology Park as a route to the commercialisation of new discoveries.

Virgin Health Bank

Virgin Health Bank (VHB), in March, announced that they were moving their headquarters from the United Kingdom to QSTP to take advantage of the research environment at the facility. VHB QSTP is a cord blood stem cell collection, processing and storage company. It was launched in the UK in 2007 as a joint venture between Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Excalibur (formerly Merlin Biosciences), the private equity house of Professor Sir Christopher Evans OBE, Europe’s leading biotechnology entrepreneur.

According to a spokesperson for VHB QSTP, Virgin Health Bank QSTP and Qatar’s medical authorities will explore the use of the umbilical cord-blood stem cell bank as part of a national public-health programme, which has the potential to create the world’s first source of stem cells for the indigenous Middle Eastern population and would, for example, make it easier for clinicians to source a matched tissue typed stem cell unit when a transplant is needed.

The College of the North Atlantic - Qatar

College of the North Atlantic - Qatar (CAN-Q) provides leading technical education in: business studies; engineering technology, health sciences, information technology and security.

The Canadian-based College’s health sciences programme offers training in a variety of professions designed to meet Canada’s rigorous health standards. These include dental assistant; emergency medical science, medical radiography technology, pharmacy technician and others.

CAN-Q also offers Pre- Nursing, the required prerequisite to enter the University of Calgary – Qatar’s Nursing Programme.

Robotic Surgery Centre

The Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre (QRSC) was initiated by the Qatar Science and Technology Park with the objective to become the regional focal point of robotic surgery. The Centre, which is due to become operational towards the end of this year, will be equipped with three Da Vinci surgical robots. QRSC will develop a unique set of training programmes for surgeons and medical staff in surgical robotics. Together with regional partners QRSC will also be involved with technological development and research. Current partners are Imperial College London and Hamad Medical Corporation, the largest hospital group in Qatar, which already uses robotic surgery for clinical applications.

ate of upload: 15th July 2009


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