WHO recognises GCC progress to combat NCDs

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), whose Ministers of Health met in Muscat, Oman early January, is the first regional entity to respond, at a Heads of State level, to the UN General Assembly Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) by developing a regional strategy to address diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic respiratory disease.

The strategy outlines a plan to put the commitments agreed upon in September last year in the UN General Assembly's Political Declaration on NCDs into action. NCDs cause more than 60% of all deaths in GCC countries, and are caused by shared risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

“The regional strategy details what the six [GCC] countries will be doing to tackle NCDs during the next years in terms of reducing people’s exposure to causative risk factors and improving services to prevent and treat these leading health problems,” said Dr Ahmed Al Saidi, Omani Minister of Health who chaired the meeting. “It also highlights what the six countries will do to set targets and measure results, advance multisectoral action, and strengthen national capacity.”

The Oman meeting followed a two-day summit in December where Heads of State of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf endorsed a regional approach to reduce premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases.

Welcoming the announcement, World Health Organization Regional Director- Elect of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region Dr Ala Alwan said: “We have the knowledge of what works to prevent and treat NCDs, a global public health and development problem of increasing significance to many countries. We are pleased to see the Gulf Cooperation Council countries taking concrete action to implement affordable best practices – called “best buys” – to curb NCDs and we hope other regions will take similar action.

“Up to 50% of people dying from these diseases in some of the Gulf countries, die prematurely, before the age of 60 years. This initiative by the GCC should be a major landmark in stopping these premature deaths,” said Alwan.

Gulf Federation for Cancer Control to setup regional cancer registry

The Gulf Federation for Cancer Control (GFFCC), in partnership with various health authorities across the GCC, will setup a GCC-wide cancer registry with the aim of greatly improving cancer care in the region. The registry will make it possible to assess current trends in cancer diagnosis and treatment, which will help researchers and doctors develop new treatments and protocols for cancer and provide better preventative education.

The registry was born out of a three-year Memorandum of Understanding, signed in May 2011, between Sanofi and the GFFCC, which establishes a framework of cooperation between the two in areas related to cancer treatment and various activities intended to educate physicians and patients through targeted support programs. The agreement also covers public outreach and education on the importance of prevention and early detection.

Dr Khaled Al Saleh, general secretary of the GFFCC, said: “The registry will contain information such as the age and gender of those diagnosed per year, geographical prevalence, relative frequencies of each type of cancer, the number of deaths per year from cancer, etc. This data can then be used to assess trends of current cancer treatment and describe the length, rate and quality of survival in relation to treatment.”

Sanofi Oncology says it is committed to providing educational grants within the GCC, as well as logistical support to facilitate the development, production and publication of the updated cancer registry across the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while the GFFCC will liaise with regulatory authorities and governmental institutions to get the endorsement for the cancer registry and publish results in Gulf Journal of Oncology.

Dr Jalaa Taher, section head of Cancer Control and Prevention, Public Health and Policy at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, said: “Creating a registry such as this is hugely important, as there had not been updated, accurate knowledge of the incidence and prevalence of cancer and cancer-related conditions in the GCC area since 2005. Governmental institutions and private healthcare facilities are not regularly reporting cancer cases and, even if they report, the data is not comprehensive, nor accurate. There is a need to create a central automated reporting repository at each emirate, or state, that reports to the federal level, and then to the regional GCC level.”

GCC healthcare sector expected to be worth US$44bn by 2015

The GCC’s healthcare sector is set to grow by an annual rate of 11% and will be worth nearly US$44bn by 2015, Alpen Capital says in a new report.

Outpatient and inpatient markets are expected to account for 82% and 18% respectively. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are predicted to lead the growth in the region. The demand for the number of hospital beds is expected to be at 93,992 in 2015, an addition of 8,669 beds from 2010, which is in line with the expected supply pipeline, said the study.

According to the report, shortage of medical personnel is a key concern in the region, with GCC governments continuing to spend millions of dollars on healthcare imports each year due to lack of sufficient services. However, the study predicts that the “gradual improvement of healthcare infrastructure and standards in the GCC, along with increasing insurance penetration, should see an increase in the number of patients opting for treatments locally”.

Alpen points to the high rates of obesity in the GCC population as a factor which will boost demand for healthcare services. They said: “This has increased the prevalence of chronic diseases and, in turn, boosted demand for healthcare services. Health insurance coverage is likely to expand over the next few years as the GCC governments mandate health insurance, giving a further boost to the healthcare sector in the region.”

The study added that the cost of healthcare in the GCC was on the rise due to increasing use of new and advanced technologies.

According to Alpen, the dependence on government spending on healthcare was a challenge for the region. “Despite growing investments in the sector, healthcare infrastructure in GCC countries lags developed nations in terms of hospital beds, diagnostic labs and clinics, as well as medical staff. For private sector players, investment in the healthcare sector remains a challenge as it is capital intensive with a long payback period.”

Abu Dhabi’s Cleveland Clinic hospital set to open in 2013

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) will be a bespoke extension of the Cleveland Clinic model of care to meet the healthcare needs of patients in Abu Dhabi and the region. In line with the Abu Dhabi Government mandate and the strategic goals of the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, CCAD is a key component of Mubadala Healthcare’s strategy to establish world-class healthcare facilities and reverse the trend of patients travelling abroad for treatment.

The 364-bed (expandable to 490-bed) multi-specialty facility on Sowwah Island will be organised into five institutes: Digestive Disease; Eye; Heart and Vascular; Neurological; and Respiratory and Critical Care.

Following the completion of the main structure in October 2011, the final phase of construction is due for completion and handover in the second quarter of 2013. The hospital is scheduled for a full-service opening to patients in the fourth quarter of 2013. Qatar public health system to go digital Hamad Medical Corporation and Cerner have signed a landmark agreement to digitise Qatar’s public health system, including all HMC hospitals and Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs). This is Cerner’s first project in the region to transfer an entire country’s public health system on to a single computing platform.

The platform being used is Cerner Millennium, a unified health IT computing platform, which will help Qatari health professionals achieve efficiency, provide evidence-based best practices, improve clinical care processes and provide the foundation for medical research initiatives related to population health management.

Cerner will also work with HMC to lay the foundation for a national health framework, which will allow for a personal health record for every citizen in Qatar. Individuals will be able to schedule appointments, send messages to their doctor and create a personal health record to better manage their health. Moreover, HMC will have the ability to capture and research health data across medical encounters and medical facilities, providing vast repositories for ongoing research and disease management for Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health.

Over a period of five years, HMC Hospitals and PHCs will integrate approximately 100 Cerner solutions and 11 third party solutions, encompassing clinical, technical, operations, and administrative areas, to support HMC in achieving a completely digital public health system.

New 400-bed hospital to be built in Damman

Drake & Scull Saudi, the Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) arm of Drake & Scull International (DSI) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been awarded an estimated SAR 130 million (about US$34.7m) contract to execute the MEP works for a hospital in the KSA province of Damman. The announcement comes a week after DSI’s securement of a SAR 352 million commercial development project in Riyadh. The new hospital will have a 400-bed capacity and consists of an 11-story building that includes clinics, educational facilities, specialised and support sections, nursing units, diagnosis laboratories, operation theatres and a helipad site. The execution of the MEP package will commence immediately and the project is expected to be completed in 2016.

Kuwait MoH signs training agreement with Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI), the international arm of Johns Hopkins Medicine of Baltimore, Maryland, USA, and the Ministry of Health of Kuwait (MOH) have signed a five-year agreement that calls for JHI to assist Kuwait in improving healthcare delivery at four of the country’s five secondary care public hospitals, and developing in-country talent in hospital administration and clinical care. The agreement was signed on December 25, 2011, by His Excellency Mustafa Gasim Al Shamali, Kuwait’s Minister of Finance and Minister of Health, and Steve Thompson CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine International.

Steve Thompson, chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine International, said: “We are privileged to be charged with the important task of helping to further strengthen Kuwait’s healthcare system. It is truly a transformational project because, through these four facilities, JHI has the ability to impact the vast majority of the country’s population, working with our Kuwaiti colleagues to improve the delivery of clinical care throughout Kuwait.”

Johns Hopkins experts in clinical care, hospital management and hospital administration will collaborate with healthcare professionals at the Ministry of Health of Kuwait and four local hospitals: Amiri, Farwaniya, Jahra and Adan, which account for more than 40% of the publicsector beds in the country.

According to the terms of the agreement, JHI will transfer knowledge in clinical and ancillary departmental protocols, continuing medical education, patient safety, preventive medicine, nursing, and health care policy. Johns Hopkins will also assist Kuwait to inaugurate management certificate and clinical certificate programs for health care providers.

Beginning in this year, JHI experts will work closely with Kuwaiti clinicians, nurses, hospital managers and administrators to better address medical issues and share innovations in the fields of trauma, orthopaedics, rehabilitation, diabetes and obstetrics, paediatrics, and telemedicine.

WHO EMRO appoints new Regional Director

The World Health Organization Executive Board, in January, has appointed Dr Ala Alwan as the new WHO Regional Director for WHO's Eastern Mediterranean Region (WHO/EMRO), which is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt. Dr Alwan took up his appointment for a five-year term on 1 February 2012. He is taking over from Dr Hussein Abdel-Razzak Al Gezairy.

EMRO comprises 22 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. “This is a region with considerable health, socio-economic and political challenges as well as diverse needs. But it is also a region with solid historical achievements and great promise,” said Dr Alwan in his acceptance speech. “I will focus on achieving the results that we, collectively, know are essential, especially in tackling the health challenges impacting the Region during the current economic and political climate.”

Dr Alwan is a native of Iraq. From 2008 until the end of 2011, he was Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO Headquarters, where he led WHO’s work that resulted in the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011 of the Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

Dr Alwan graduated in Medicine from the University of Alexandria. He practised medicine in Scotland and obtained his postgraduate training and qualifications in the United Kingdom. Following his return to Iraq, he held several positions in clinical and academic medicine and public health. He was Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Mustansiriya University, Baghdad, Iraq.

In 1992, he joined EMRO as Regional Adviser for Noncommunicable Diseases. He then served as WHO Representative in Oman, and Director, Division of Health Systems Development in EMRO. In 1998, Dr Alwan moved to WHO headquarters as Director for Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention and then Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases Management. In 2001, he became WHO Representative in Jordan. From 2003 to 2005, he was Minister of Education and Minister of Health in the Government of Iraq. From 2005 to January 2008, he was Representative of the Director-General and Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises.

DHA participates in innovative cardiology

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is at the forefront of the latest advances in healthcare following its participation in an innovative procedure to treat blocked coronary arteries. The new therapy, which was undertaken for the first time at Dubai Hospital and Rashid Hospital, is deemed so groundbreaking that it has been hailed the ‘Fourth Revolution’ in the field of cardiology. The DHA is the first health entity in the Middle East and Africa to offer the new therapy, putting the DHA firmly on the map for breakthrough advances in healthcare.

The new therapy, titled ABSORB, involves the insertion of a bioresorbable scaffold into an affected coronary artery, thereby promoting the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. The procedure is similar to the existing technique, which involves placing a stent into a diseased artery, but with one crucial difference; whereas the stent is a permanent fixture, the scaffold dissolves over a period of two years, leaving the artery widened but with no trace of the device.

His Excellency Khalid Al Sheikh Mubarak, deputy director general at the DHA, said: “The DHA is very pleased to be able to participate in the ABSORB program, which promises to revolutionize the treatment of coronary artery disease over the coming years.”

The procedure, which marked the first insertion of an Abbott ABSORB scaffold device in the Middle East and Africa, took place at Dubai Hospital’s Heart Center and was performed by Dr Talib Majwal, director of Interventional Cardiology at Dubai Heart Centre, and Dr Fahad Baslaib, director of Rashid Hospital’s Cardiology Department. The procedure took about twenty minutes, with the patient remaining conscious throughout.

Dr Majwal said: “In terms of insertion technique, the ABSORB scaffold procedure is much the same as placing a stent in an affected artery, so there was no need to learn a major new set of skills. The huge advantage that this scaffold has over a stent is that over a period of two years it dissolves into harmless gas and water, leaving the coronary artery free of any foreign object. This allows the artery to flex and pulsate, which is better for blood flow than having a restrictive permanent stent that turns the vessel into an inflexible cage and inhibits artery movement.”

Dr Fahad Baslaib said: “The ABSORB procedure is particularly beneficial for younger patients, as there is the option for further forms of treatment in the future – something that the insertion of a metal stent precludes. This is especially significant for the UAE, as the average age that people start to experience heart problems here is 45 years of age, which is 10 to 15 years younger than in Europe."

Specialised Patient Pathway Coordinators to support cancer patients in Doha

Hamad Medical Corporation has announced the addition of seven Patient Pathway Coordinators (PPCs), to their cancer care departments. The PPCs will play a crucial role in coordinating a cancer patient’s care, starting from the point of diagnosis, with the goal of ensuring a seamless care pathway.

Since the launch of the National Cancer Strategy for Qatar by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in April 2011, HMC has been working to recruit and train PPCs .

Jennifer Jones, project manager for HMC’s Transforming Cancer Services team, said: “HMC is very proud of the introduction of Patient Pathway Coordinators. The importance of the role of the PPC was described in the National Cancer Strategy and it is very exciting to see the idea come to life. The Strategy talked about having more healthcare professionals interacting with patients at the right time, and it recommended this new role as crucial in the delivery of excel

The PPCs, who have recently graduated from their specialist, internationally-led training course, started working with patients this year. Recruitment is ongoing for this unique role.

Wadi Jeddah, GE Healthcare to set up radiopharmaceutical plant in KSA

GE Healthcare announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Wadi Jeddah, a Saudi Arabia-based organisation focused on knowledge-based investments, to set up a radiopharmaceutical plant and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging services facility in the Kingdom.

David Carr, general manager of Molecular Imaging of GE Healthcare, and Dr Turky Abdulmajeed, CEO of Wadi Jeddah, announced the partnership on the sidelines of Arab Health 2012, Dubai’s annual healthcare exhibition.

As per the agreement, the radiopharmaceutical plant and PET imaging services facility will be set up on the Wadi Jeddah lands located within King Abdul Aziz University Hospital campus in Jeddah. GE will extend its expertise in radiopharmaceutical site planning design, supply advanced healthcare equipment for the facility, provide GMP certification support and deliver a comprehensive clinical education solution. As part of the agreement, Wadi Jeddah will place the first order for GE’s new Discovery PET/CT 710 in the Middle East region.

GE Healthcare’s David Carr said: “Through our strategic partnership with Wadi Jeddah, we can contribute to developing the market for radiopharmaceutical FDG products in the Western region of the Kingdom. The partnership also complements our ‘healthymagination’ commitment, which aims to provide greater access to high quality medical care for more people, at lower costs.”

Wadi Jeddah’s Dr Turky Abdulmajeed said: “Wadi Jeddah is going to establish its first Cyclotron and PET centre in Jeddah and is planning to expand further in to other regions such as Makkah, Madinah, Abha, Taif, and Tabuk. It is Wadi Jeddah’s goal to support all interested healthcare facilities in the region.”

The new facility also addresses a pressing requirement in the Western Region of the country, where access to PET imaging has been constrained by the lack of radiopharmaceuticals.

Abu Dhabi’s first Hypertension Clinic to open

Mafraq Hospital, which is owned and operated by the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), plans to open Abu Dhabi’s first Hypertension Clinic to support the 40% of UAE nationals estimated to suffer from the disease.

The clinic, which will be staffed by a team of five doctors and nurses, will offer onsite support, as well as at-home treatment options and disease management programmes. All clinic patients will undergo a complete evaluation, physical exam, laboratory and radiologic assessment. Dietary advice and management will also be offered. The lead physician for the clinic is Dr Sarah Khan, MD, FASN, ABIM, Nephrology and Hypertension consultant at Mafraq Hospital.

As a disease with very few early symptoms or warning signs, hypertension is associated with an increased risk of mortality and morbidity from stroke, coronary heart disease, and congestive heart failure. Hypertension claims nearly eight million lives worldwide each year. One in two deaths in the UAE is caused by cardiovascular diseases and the first cardio event (stroke) occurs at around 45 years of age, which is 10 to 15 years earlier than the international average of 55 to 60, according to local medical experts.

Dr Khan said: “The clinic is expected to fill a much needed gap in treatment options across the Emirate. As this will be the only dedicated Hypertension Clinic in the city of Abu Dhabi, we are in a position to improve the quality of life for our patients, and this is a role we take very seriously.”

Mafraq Hospital, Abu Dhabi, receives international accreditation

Mafraq Hospital has received international accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI).

As part of its commitment to providing excellence in healthcare, SEHA stipulates that all of its healthcare service providers should obtain international independent accreditation, to ensure world-class standards of medical care and treatment in the emirate.

Harold E. Chilton, acting chief executive officer and chief operating officer at Mafraq Hospital, said: “This accomplishment crowns a year of international and local achievements for Mafraq Hospital, including becoming the first healthcare facility to receive the Diamond Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award (SKEA), and being named the 2011 Stevie Awards’ customer service team of the year. Each and every member of the Hospital’s team is proud to have played a part in this major accomplishment.”

Helge Springhorm, quality director at Mafraq Hospital, said: “In collaboration with healthcare organisations from over 80 countries, JCI sets the international standards which enhance healthcare service levels around the world, both in terms of quality and patient safety. Our objective is to enhance the services and patient safety at Mafraq Hospital through the skills and expertise of our doctors and healthcare professionals. Mafraq Hospital now has some of the most advanced medical equipment in the world, which allows us to provide the best possible medical care and therapeutic services for our patients in one of the fastest growing areas of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.”

Nasal allergies reduce productivity by 27% – survey

Results from the Allergies in the Middle East (AIME) survey of over 500 adults and parents of children with nasal allergies, or allergic rhinitis, showed that symptoms are severe enough to impair work performance and diminish quality of life.

The survey revealed that nasal allergies diminish quality of life by preventing participation in outdoor activities, reducing work productivity by an average of 27%, interfering in academic performance and causing sufferers of all ages to feel tired, depressed and miserable as a result of symptoms. Notably, most seek relief with medication, but approximately half of adults and children reported that their current nasal allergy spray failed to provide 24-hour relief and it was not effective enough to treat all symptoms, with the effectiveness wearing off over time.

Approximately 400 million people are thought to suffer from nasal allergies worldwide. Prevalence rates in the Middle East are estimated to be as high as 10% and rising as developing countries adopt western lifestyles.

H5N1 in Egypt

The Ministry of Health and Population of Egypt notified WHO of a new case of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus. The case is a 45-year-old female from Menofia governorate. She developed symptoms on 10 February, received oseltamivir treatment on 17 February, and was still recovering at the time of this report. The case was laboratory confirmed by the Central Public Health Laboratories; a National Influenza Center of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network, on 18 February. Epidemiological investigation into the source of infection indicates that the woman had exposure to backyard poultry.

Of the 160 cases confirmed to date (22 February 2012) in Egypt, 55 have been fatal.  


                                                                        Copyright © 2012 MiddleEastHealthMag.com. All Rights Reserved.