Young physicians honoured with Tamayoz awards

Seven winners for the second annual Tamayoz Awards for outstanding work in clinical care and medical research have been announced in Dubai in April.

The awards were presented by the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center (HMSDC) Institute for Postgraduate Education and Research, a member of the Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center, in conjunction with Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). They included categories for Nursing and other Healthcare Professionals, Trainees (residents and fellows), and Young Physicians. This year, the Tamayoz Awards also included the newly established ‘Young Physician Research Award for Excellence’.

The winners received a one month observership at a Harvard-affiliated hospital or laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr Muhadditha Al Hashimi, CEO of Dubai Healthcare City, said: “The Tamayoz Awards will help motivate young healthcare professionals to further enhance their skills and knowledge.

“The recognition and accompanying fellowships add tremendous value to an individual’s career prospects, encouraging the professional to target scientific research and discovery as key focus areas. We congratulate the awardees for their commendable work.”

Winners in the Nursing and Healthcare Professionals category included Mohammed Fteiha, a speech and language pathologist at the Dubai Autism Center, UAE, and Mahnaz Zeinali, a senior laboratory technician in the genetics department of Al Wasl Hospital, Dubai, UAE.

The Trainee Awards went to Taleb Mohamad Al Mansoor, a resident in radiology at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain, UAE, and Ahmad Al Hammadi, a fifth year medical student at the UAE University who has conducted in-depth studies on the physiology of the heart in diabetes-affected mice and rats.

The Young Physician Awards were presented to Rahul Nathwani, a consultant gastroenterologist specialising in hepatology and endoscopy at the Abu Hammour Medical Center, DHCC, UAE, and Saud Al-Shanafey, Assistant Professor of Surgery at King Saud University for Health Sciences, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Dr Fowzan AlKuraya, a pediatrician and medical geneticist at King Faisal Specialists Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, won the newly instituted ‘Young Physician Research Award for Excellence’. Widely acknowledged for his research, the Tamayoz Awards recognised Dr AlKuraya’s outstanding work in genetic birth defects.


Saudi German Hospitals Group president honoured

Engineer Sobhi A. Batterjee, president & CEO of the Saudi Arabia-based Saudi German Hospitals Group, a region-wide network of hospitals, has been honoured with Health Care Industry CEO of the Year award by the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute.

Batterjee was honoured for his accomplishments as a leader within the healthcare industry, whose “innovation and direction has improved health care delivery and contributed to the growth of the industry in the region, and whose organization has raised the standards of performance for a health care organisation to provide efficient, cost-effective, quality healthcare services to the community”.

The awards ceremony in Dubai in March was attended by several international and regional VIPs.


Female sterilisation ban lifted for UAE’s private hospitals

Gulf News reports that women in the UAE can now be sterilised at private hospitals following permission from the Emirate’s Health Authority. A 2006 ban on the private sector performing sterilisation procedures on men and women was lifted for women allowing private hospitals to perform female sterilisation procedures. Male sterilisation is still illegal.


HIV detected in Saudi blood donors

A brief report (8 April 2008) in Saudi Arabia’s Arab News says that 368 HIV cases were detected in blood donors at 253 clinics across the kingdom in 2006. The newspaper also reported, along with the HIV cases, there were 32,798 cases of hepatitis B, 2,862 cases of hepatitis C, 1,145 cases of syphilis, 13 cases of malaria and 777 cases of high blood pressure among the blood donors.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, an official with the kingdom’s Ministry of Health, is quoted as saying said that 310,000 people were allowed to donate blood in 2006.

600 children die daily in Afghanistan

IRIN reports from Kabul that about 600 children under five die every day in Afghanistan due to pneumonia, poor nutrition, diarrhoea and other preventable diseases.

These shocking figures were highlighted in the State of the World’s Children 2008 report released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on 22 January.

Entitled Child Survival, the UNICEF report ranks Afghanistan as having the third highest infant mortality rate, after Sierra Leone and Angola. The country is ranked second in the world in terms of its maternal mortality rate with about 1,600 deaths per every 100,000 live births.

However, the war-ravaged country has made considerable progress in the delivery of basic health services to about 80% of its estimated 24.5 million population, which has reduced child mortality rates by 25% since 2001, UNICEF said.

Nonetheless, one out of every four Afghan children does not survive his/her fifth birthday, aid agencies say. Afghanistan’s overall progress towards its fourth Millennium Development Goal which calls for a 50% reduction in the infant mortality rate by 2015, is deemed “very difficult” given the country’s multiple challenges.

IRIN reports that poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation is another major cause of death among many Afghan women and children.

Only five million Afghans use clean drinking water and 2.6 million have access to sanitation, Dan Toole, UNICEF regional director in South Asia, said. Pneumonia and diarrhoea are the two most serious diseases among under fives, according to the report. In Afghanistan, only 28% of children suffering from pneumonia reach an appropriate healthcare provider, while 48% of those with diarrhoea receive “oral rehydration and continued feeding”.

Meanwhile, only 14% of pregnant women in Afghanistan receive a “skilled attendant” during child delivery. More than half of 6-9- month-old children in Afghanistan are deprived of proper breastfeeding and complementary food.

This has resulted in 39% of under fives being underweight and 54% of them suffering stunting or improper physical growth, UNICEF’s statistics indicate.

Downs Surgical shows strong growth in Middle East

Leading UK surgical instrument manufacturer, Downs Surgical, which has been crafting surgical tools for more than 120 years, is making substantial inroads in the Middle East market with a reported 65% growth in sales in the region last year, says Steve Spurgin, International business manager.

Its 2007-appointed representative for Saudi Arabia, Hammad Medical Service, has embarked on a drive to meet key surgeons to reinforce the company’s presence in the kingdom and explain what they can offer in terms of its comprehensive product range, covering applications in all surgical interventions, including ENT surgery, cardiovascular, obstetrics and gynaecology.

Speedy vaccination campaign to prevent measles in Anbar

The Iraqi MoH, UNICEF and the WHO conducted a massive vaccination campaign in Anbar province in March to deliver the combined Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine to all children (around 200,000) under five.

The emergency immunisation campaign was in response to a measles outbreak in Anbar that affected almost 100 young children in February. Conflict and insecurity in the last 3 years have isolated Anbar from the rest of the country and eroded Anbar’s routine health services, leading to a serious drop in coverage of infants with the measles vaccine.

This fell to the low of 25% by the end of 2007, making mass campaigns such as this critical to contain this mounting outbreak, according to the WHO. In addition to posing risks to vaccinators, Anbar’s ongoing conflict has placed additional burdens on the “cold chain” network, which store vaccines, required to keep them safe and effective.

Electricity shortages and insecurity have profoundly affected the provincial and district health centre storage facility for vaccines. The Iraq MoH said it was fully committed to the measles elimination plan and “we will provide all the needed resources to aid in achieving its goals by the year 2010”.

Med product development hub launched in Jordan

The Philadelphia Biological and Medical Product Development Centre has been launched in Amman, Jordan.

The healthcare product development hub will provide preclinical evaluation, fullservice clinical research, core lab facilities, as well as cell engineering and culturing.

Peggy Farley, managing director of the General Partner and co-founder of the Ascent Medical Technology Funds which is leveraging finance for the centre says it is the only product development hub of its kind in the world that will provide these services.

The centre is geared to meet all of the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration and the European authorities for preclinical and clinical testing of medical products. “As a gateway to global markets, the centre’s turnkey output and full access to research and development support will spur widespread product development initiatives, which can only be good for healthcare, worldwide,” Farley said.

“We feel that the time is now ripe for the medical industry in the region to achieve recognition from the global marketplace, and Jordan stacks up as the perfect host.” She predicts that lower research and development costs and the promise of potentially higher quality coupled with better regulation than other emerging economies, sets Jordan ahead of the game.

“The centre will work closely with associate centres of excellence that it will help establish in Jordan and other countries in the Middle East, as well as with the University of Jordan, Jordan University for Science and Technology, a number of Jordan’s hospitals and Jordan’s Royal Scientific Society,” Farley said.

New rules for UAE pharmacies

Gulf News reports that the Health Authority Abu Dhabi has issued new guidelines for pharmacies which require them to have a licensed pharmacist on duty during business hours. It has also been made mandatory for pharmacies to use a new triplicate controlled prescription form. A copy will remain with the pharmacy, another one will be handed to the patient and a third copy given to the insurance company.

Pfizer to set up regional HQ at Dubai’s DuBiotech

Pfizer, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, will set up its new medical and marketing headquarters for Middle East and Africa in Dubai, at the Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech).

The pharmaceutical company has more than 1,300 employees in the Middle East with regional offices in Dubai and Cairo.

Jeffrey B. Kindler, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said: “DuBiotech has a holistic vision on how the biotechnology industry is required to operate for registering consistent growth. The biotechnology park has realised the need for top-tier talent to sustain this line of business. Our partnership with DuBiotech also offers us a solid regulatory system and the right governmental support to drive innovation, which is crucial to the development of the biotechnology industry.”

The Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park aims to create a regional centre of excellence for biotechnology by bridging research, education, and industry through national and international collaborations.

Group of Gaza doctors gets war surgery training

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) held a three-day seminar on war surgery in the Gaza Strip from 11-13 March for 55 Palestinian medics, with lessons ranging from international humanitarian law to basic management of war wounded, and more specific topics like head and stomach injuries.

“[War wounds] have to be managed in a way not usually taught at medical school,” said Marco Baldan, the ICRC head surgeon, because more damage is caused than in other types of injuries and they are more prone to infection. Apart from teaching new surgical techniques, part of the course focused on identifying specific problems the surgeons face, reports IRIN.

These included issues such as the sudden large influx of patients a hospital can receive after a military attack or bombing, as well as the issue of guns in the hospital brought in by a wounded militant’s colleagues.

The sudden influx of patients often resulted in a lack of continuity of care as patients were discharged to day care as soon as the operation was complete to free up beds for other war wounded. Guns in hospitals often intensified and already tense operating room, placing huge pressures on surgeons.

“The hospitals must control the amount of people and weapons present, so patients get proper assessments and treatment,” said Harald Veen from the ICRC, adding that this was part of an overall administrative reform Gaza’s hospitals required.

Saudi launches TB diagnosis campaign

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has launched a yearlong campaign to encourage early tuberculosis diagnosis, reports Arab News (26 March 2008).

Dr Naila Abu Al-Jadayel, the programme coordinator in the Makkah Region was quoted as saying the “strategy of the national tuberculosis control programme has succeeded to fulfil all targeted aims, including early diagnosis, free treatment and eliminating fatalities from the disease”.

Dr Tawfik Khoja, director general of the Executive Board of the Council of Health Ministers of GCC states, said the real worry now is the spread of drug-resistant TB that is hard to cure even with advanced medications. “Patients who have this kind of TB must be treated with drugs that are expensive, for longer periods of 18 to 24 months,” he said.

Abu Al-Jadayel said the health ministry is targeting healthcare workers through seminars and training on how to apply the TB-control programme.

UAE MoH to spend $300m on healthcare IT

The UAE MoH will spend Dh300 million (US$81m) over the next three years to strengthen its information technology, according to a report in Gulf News.

Humaid Al Qatami, the UAE Minister of Health, said the initiative was part of MoH 2008-2010 strategic framework.

Dr Salem Al Darmaki, undersecretary assistant Finance and Administration, MoH, was quoted as saying the ministry had allocated funds for various projects, one of which included the Health Information System/ Picture Archiving and Communication System.

“Our main aim is to provide medical facilities for UAE residents with moderate pricing and flexibility in communication. We have currently achieved 40% of our strategy plan and aim to increase that to 85% by 2010,” he said.

MoH initiatives listed by the newspaper include the:

● Establishment of the department for strategic planning and performance at the MoH

● Establishment of an electronic system for health information that links federal and local health institutions

● Accreditation of hospitals according to international standards

● Preparation of hospital laboratories, X-Ray diagnostic services, blood transfusion services in the blood bank and hospitals to meet international standards

● Exchange of medical expertise with reputed international health institutions

● Decrease of waiting time of patients at hospital Emergency Units

● Promotion of diagnostic services in health centres

● Implementation of a preventive dental health programme as an integral part of primary health care services

Refugee influx overwhelms Yemen health charity

A health charity in southern Yemen has said the increasing influx of African refugees is putting pressure on the services it is trying to provide, according to an IRIN report (12 March 2008).

The Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), a local non-governmental organisation, runs two health facilities in the south -- one at Kharaz refugee camp in Lahj Governorate, and the other in Aden, which is home to over 15,000 African (mainly Somali) refugees.

Nidhal Ba-Hwaireth, CSSW secretary-general, told IRIN the continuous influx of African refugees in the south was worrying: “Since the beginning of 2008, the refugees have been putting pressure on the medical services we offer. In Kharaz, facilities at the clinic are not sufficient.

There are only three doctors, a simple laboratory and a room for maternity services,” he said. Ba-Hwaireth said the Kharaz health centre used to receive 3,000 refugees a month, but that number had now increased to 6,000.

The CSSW has an agreement with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yemen to provide medical services to refugees in Kharaz and al- Basatin (Aden area).

CSSW signed an agreement with the UNHCR on 11 March according to which UNHCR would give CSSW 74 million Yemeni riyals (about US$370,000) for its 2008 operations, a 30% increase, Ba- Hwaireth told IRIN.

“We had asked the UNHCR to increase the budget by 60% due to the continuous increase in the numbers of refugees," he said, adding that the annual budget used to be 54 million riyals ($270,000).

However, despite the budget increase, Ba-Hwaireth said there were challenges ahead: “Between 200 and 300 African refugees arrive each week at the camp in the south. “We have to open medical files for them after giving them medical tests.

Some of them were injured by smugglers,” he said. CSSW dispenses medicines for free to the refugees, including those with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension or heart problems. Difficult cases are referred to large hospitals in Lahj and Aden. Common diseases among refugees are tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

● Meanwhile, the UNHCR said on 4 March that 8,713 Africans had arrived in southern Yemen on 182 smuggling boats in the first two months of 2008. At least 113 had died at sea and another 214 had gone missing. This is a big increase on the first two months of 2007 when 2,946 Africans arrived. The increase in arrivals this year is partly due to the use of new smuggling routes, says the UN agency.

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