Qatar Report

Building heathcare for the 21st century

Qatar’s leading healthcare provider, Hamad Medical Corporation says it is committed to realising the government’s vision of making Qatar an internationally recognised healthcare destination. The corporation has come a long way in the past 30 years since it was established by Emiri decree in 1979. The organisation has evolved into one of the leading public healthcare providers in the region and is currently the principal provider of acute care services to the population in Qatar. Middle East Health reports.

Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) long term plans are based on the healthcare goals set out in Qatar’s National Vision for 2030. Qatar aims to be an advanced nation by 2030, capable of sustaining its development and providing a high standard of living for its entire people and HMC’s efforts are focused on contributing to the implementation of this vision.

The Supreme Council of Health is the highest health authority in Qatar and is responsible for setting the government health agenda and policies and regulating the development of this sector. Established in April 2009, it is the government body that oversees the strategic development and operation of HMC as part of the country’s national healthcare planning.

As the largest public health service provider in Qatar, HMC has a strong and important relationship with the Council. The Council has a keen interest in HMC's development and capacities in contributing to the improvement of the health of Qatar’s population, while HMC ensures that its healthcare contributions are consistent with the Council’s national objectives.

The government’s health service outlays are approximately 4% of GDP, which demonstrates a significant investment in the country’s health sector. The bulk of health spending is for the provision of a full range of health services, from primary to tertiary healthcare service for residents in Qatar. Qatar is investing 2.8% of its annual GDP on medical and clinical research alone in support of a strong commitment to invest in the health and wellbeing of its future citizens.

Demographic challenges

As Qatar continues to grow and develop at an exceptional rate, this rapid change brings its own set of challenges that HMC continually works to address. Qatar’s current population is approximately 1.7 million – of which about 300,000 are Qataris and the rest are made up of an expatriate workforce force. The Qatari population, which is growing at a significant rate, is relatively young with a large percentage made up of children and adolescents.

This brings with it its own set of challenges and HMC needs to ensure that targeted services, such as paediatric facilities, are developed in keeping with the rate of growth in families residing in Qatar. Apart from the pre-natal and ante-natal medical care, HMC also needs to plan for the various healthcare requirements needed to look after children as they grow up – from vaccination programmes to general health awareness campaigns and the treatment of specific illnesses.

Qatar’s expatriate workforce includes some professionals and many general labourers who work mainly in the construction and cleaning industry. Whilst most of the former may have health insurance cover through their professional engagements, many of the latter rely on Qatar’s public healthcare sector to provide for their medical needs.

Some of the key concerns seen in the Middle East, though these trends are reflected throughout more developed and economically advanced countries, are the rate of increase in obesity and related health problems. HMC has been working closely with other partners in the industry to raise awareness about the health implications and to encourage a healthier lifestyle especially amongst the young.

One of the key challenges for any healthcare provider is having the benefit of reliable data in order to make informed and effective decisions on where to invest resources in order to maximise the benefit to citizens.

Throughout the Middle East, developing adequate statistics has been a challenge because of a lack of recorded data. However, HMC has been working on improving the data it records. The Corporation is also in the process of moving to digital patient records which will improve efficiency in many areas and enable the Corporation to better focus on the health issues that matter to Qatar. HMC is also developing best practice clinical responses for the management and treatment of key health issues.

Corporate profile

Since its establishment, HMC has rapidly developed medical facilities capable of providing state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment of diseases that previously could only be managed in overseas medical institutions. HMC currently provides more than 90% of all hospital services throughout Qatar and employs approximately 16,000 staff.

HMC’s health services are provided through five main hospital facilities, some with specialist services, in the State of Qatar. Four hospitals, including Hamad General Hospital, Women’s Hospital, Rumailah Hospital and Al-Amal Oncology Hospital, are located in Doha, close to Hamad Medical City. Al-Khor Hospital is located in Al Khor city, 60 km’s north of Doha.

Rumailah Hospital was the first hospital in the HMC group, originally established in 1957 as a general hospital. The hospital became part of the group at HMC’s formation in 1979.

It now provides a mix of rehabilitation and acute care with services for:
● Adult rehabilitation ● Paediatric rehabilitation ● Burns and Plastic surgery ● Dental ● Specialist surgery ● Specialist medicine ● Psychiatry ● Geriatrics

Hamad General Hospital (HGH), established in 1982, is the largest hospital within the Corporation and provides a comprehensive range of specialist acute care. It is a teaching hospital and prides itself on providing numerous internship and residency programmes, working closely with educational institutions. Its activities include:

● Trauma ● Emergency care ● Paediatrics ● Critical care ● Specialist surgery ● Specialist medicine ● General surgery ● General medicine ● Laboratory medicine ● Radiology

The Women’s Hospital, established in 1988, is a specialised women’s hospital and covers: ● Obstetrics ● Gynaecology ● Neo-natal care ● Emergency Care ● Newborn screening Al Amal Hospital, established in 2004, is a dedicated oncology hospital and offers the services of: ● Clinical oncology (radiotherapy) ● Medical oncology ● Day case chemotherapy ● Specialist laboratory services ● Pain management and Palliative care

The hospital enables cancer patients to remain independent and many of the services offered are through day care services. Surgical oncology is provided at Hamad General Hospital through an integrated care package and multi-disciplinary teams. 

Al Khor Hospital, established in 2004, is a district general hospital that caters to families who live in Al Khor and need more accessible medical care. It covers: ● General medicine ● General surgery ● Emergency medicine ● Paediatrics ● Obstetrics

Also under the corporate umbrella are additional medical facilities – such as the Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Home Healthcare Service and the recently opened Fahad Bin Jassim Kidney Center.

HMC manages the EMS which is responsible for handling all ‘999’ emergency cases resulting from illness or injury. A fleet of ambulances, rapid response vehicles and the Lifeflight helicopter staffed with trained personnel provide vital assistance to all patients in need regardless of which hospital they end up in. In addition, EMS transports non-emergency patients to, from and between healthcare facilities.

HMC’s Home Healthcare Service offers post-acute medical support throughout Qatar. Home care allows patients to remain within the comfort of their own homes and communities, offering an alternative to daily hospital attendance. Home care gives a superior service to patients and their caregivers, while also assisting in relieving overcrowding in hospitals and reducing costs.

Donated by Qtel – Qatar’s telecoms corporation – and managed by HMC, the new Kidney Center was formally opened in March this year and has been designed to offer some of the most advanced treatment standards in the region. The centre provides treatment facilities for people suffering from acute and chronic kidney diseases, such as renal failure, requiring regular haemodialysis treatment.

Hamad Medical City

Hamad Medical City was built as a response to the forecast population growth and the associated growth of healthcare needs. It consists of a new Children’s Hospital, a new Women’s Hospital, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Hospital and a Skilled Nursing Facility.

Hamad Medical City is an integrated medical complex developed on 450,000 sq.m of land and consisting of four hospitals, medical staff and nurses’ residential buildings, an interim skilled nursing facility for patients with long-term disabilities, therapeutic facilities and the Supreme Council of Health office buildings.

Many of the staff accommodation and office buildings were built in 2006 to house the athletes who came to Doha to compete in the Asian Games that year. It is fitting that these buildings that have been built with government funds are now used effectively and efficiently by the country’s primary healthcare provider to carry out its duty.

In addition, a new Heart Hospital in Hamad Medical City and a new community hospital based in Al Wakrah City (South of Doha) are in development.

Health & Healthcare Standards

The provision of high quality healthcare is the first of three key pillars of HMC. It is important to review existing and anticipate the changes in healthcare needs of patients to prepare for future demands; this includes not only the level of medical care but also the auxiliary care they receive. The level of service, accommodation, dining, and many other hospitality related elements are immensely important to the overall patient experience and instrumental to their wellbeing. These considerations have featured more prominently in HMC’s efforts to raise and maintain its standards of care and have been instrumental in shaping the continuum of care provided by clinicians and allied healthcare professionals.

In order to gauge the level of the healthcare provided, HMC sought to be measured by international standards and set benchmarks to evaluate improvement over time. The Corporation’s commitment has been recognised by international accreditation bodies such as the Joint Commission International (JCI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As part of the efforts to achieve international recognition, HMC was able to attain JCI accreditation for all five hospitals, the first organisation in the region to have managed this feat. In addition, the Home Healthcare Service was successfully accredited, making this the first accredited homecare programme in the Middle East.

Partnering with international experts has been instrumental in helping to establish high standards of operation. For instance the five-year partnership with Canada-based SickKids Hospital, signed earlier this year, is key to the preparations for HMC’s new Children’s Hospital in Hamad Medical City. This will be a new facility providing a stateof- the-art paediatric care that is expected to be operational in the next couple of years.

HMC also has partnerships with Heidelberg University Medical Center (for oncology, newborn metabolic screening and specialist medical training); Partners Healthcare, Boston (for organisational governance and decentralisation); University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (for emergency services) and Asia Australia Mental Health (for psychiatric and mental health).


Education is a key pillar upon which HMC’s development is based. It is reflected by a strong tradition of organising local, regional, pan- Arab and international conferences, symposiums and lectures – more than 50 have been organised over the last few years. This is in addition to numerous community and professional educational activities, many of which have been organised in coordination with local and international partners, such as Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, College of North Atlantic-Qatar and Qatar University.

Education is recognised as the foundation of Qatar’s future development and HMC aspires to offer internationally recognised medical education and fellowship training programmes for Qatari and international students. HMC doctors, nurses and allied health professionals are dedicated to ensuring the residents of Qatar receive the very best healthcare and this was the catalyst for the creation of the annual Qatar Health Congress and Exhibition. Qatar Health 2009 was the largest, most influential medical congress and exhibition ever held in Qatar.

HMC has a vested interest in forming close links with the education sector. Weill- Cornell Medical College-Qatar and HMC are affiliated and share teaching, research and training responsibilities in medical education. The College of the North Atlantic-Qatar provides training for future HMC employees in allied health disciplines. Calgary University-Qatar provides graduate nurse training programmes.

HMC conducts ongoing programmes of workshops and lectures on a wide range of topics and specialities in all health disciplines. In addition, there are many local and international conferences which provide opportunities for presentations and workshops.

There is also a robust programme of sponsoring specialist training overseas as well as attendances at international conferences. The Nursing Division has a comprehensive training programme to ensure maintenance and development of skills and competencies.

HMC participates in national and international awareness days and campaigns – such as diabetes, smoking, heart and kidney conditions as well as World Health Day – and other associated campaigns such as road safety. HMC also links with key national organisations such as the diabetes and cancer societies; and staff often participate in school education initiatives on key health topics.


Research is the third important pillar of HMC – allowing the organisation to contribute to finding new medical breakthroughs that benefit Qatar locally, but also a global population. In collaboration with partners, HMC has developed and enhanced leading regional training centres, such as in robotics surgery with Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), in order to push the boundaries of medical science. The generous provision of government research funds has been greatly appreciated by HMC doctors and research scientists as they forge ahead to analyse diseases and find new cures.

Established in 1998, HMC’s Medical Research Center has grown in importance and has initiated several research projects. With Qatar investing 2.8% of GDP in research, HMC is now in a better position to support both internal and external research projects.

Prominent research currently under way are gene and type 2 diabetes studies amongst the Qatari population; a stroke awareness study on the level of awareness of stroke risk factors and symptoms in the GCC countries; and various paediatric clinical trials.

A New Image for a New Era

HMC is in the process of rolling out a new brand identity throughout the organisation, which is a considerable task given the size of the organisation. The intention is to achieve, at the end of this project, a comprehensive change management effect. HMC is not only looking for an external ‘facelift’ with a new logo, but a more monumental behavioural shift – this includes the way in which HMC staff deliver the service of care but also how the general public perceives the value of care provided by HMC.

The overriding intention for re-branding HMC was to recognise the organisation’s evolution that has taken place over the past three decades. This deserved the creation of a unique and contemporary corporate identity that is recognisable and supports HMC’s values. The new image underlines HMC’s effort to provide a new future in healthcare delivery for Qatar’s citizens.

The three leaves of HMC’s logo represent the core disciplines of Health, Education and Research. Positioning the leaves together in this way promotes a unified and caring image of the professional quality medical care HMC provides.

Individual logos were given to each of the hospitals under HMC’s corporate umbrella. The new branding is colour-themed, and each colour symbolises the type of health care given within the hospital and is designed to provide a more patient-friendly face.

HMC’s strategic mission remains to be a world-class healthcare provider that offers an affordable, accessible and sustainable healthcare service to its current and future residents. The organisation collaborates with other local healthcare organisations to both reduce duplication of effort and maximise the benefits of extensive experience. In order to realise improvements in the healthcare sector HMC needed to realise improvements within the organisation. In 2005 HMC committed to a strategy of decentralisation, which is being rolled out throughout the organisation and focuses on increasingly devolving responsibilities and accountabilities to individual hospitals whilst maintaining an overarching corporate management framework.

Robotic Surgery Centre - a regional training site

Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre (QRSC) is poised to become a focal point for international expertise in robotic surgery. The Centre focuses on two core activities: (1) training in robotic and minimally invasive surgery and (2) development and demonstration of innovative surgical technologies. The concept of QRSC is unique in the world, as it places emphasis on advanced simulation training and cross-fertilisation between its training and technology development activities.

Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre is an initiative of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned that aims to develop Qatar into a hub for robotic surgery. The Centre is managed by Qatar Science & Technology Park and partners with Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Imperial College London and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

QRSC performed its first training in April this year with a series of robotic cardiac workshops attended by surgeons from across the GCC. The Centre was expected to start technology development before the summer.

A decade after its introduction, there are 1,500 surgical robots in use worldwide. In the United States 60% of prostatectomy cases are performed using the technology. There are established applications in urology, cardiothoracic and general surgery and new applications are continually being developed, ensuring robotic surgery will almost certainly play a dominating role in minimally invasive surgery practice of the future.

The surgical robot is essentially a masterslave system, which leaves the surgeon in full control of the surgery, but allows him to benefit from an advanced 3D view and enhanced precision. The combination of the surgeon and the robot creates, in a sense, a ‘super-surgeon’. The patient benefits from smaller surgical incisions, less pain, less risk and faster recovery.


QRSC offers training courses in all aspects of robotic surgery, as well as limited programmes in minimally invasive and laparoscopic surgery. The robotic training programmes – for surgeons, OR teams, nurses, technical support staff, hospital management and researchers – will cover different levels of experience and expertise, from basic skills to highly specialised master courses. The Centre uses a mix of different educational methodologies, including advanced simulation. The trainee, for example, practices with a real surgical robot on a silicone model of a beating heart or on a mixed tissue model. Later in the year, the Centre will also start using an animal lab, in collaboration with HMC.

Although the Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre is not directly involved in treating patients, it reaps the benefits of the surgical expertise of its partner, Hamad Medical Corporation. HMC is the leading healthcare provider in Qatar and started a robotic surgery programme at the end of 2008.

Sidra Medical and Research Center, another landmark healthcare initiative in Qatar, currently under development, will offer robotic surgery to patients when it becomes operational.

With its technology development activities, QRSC aims to build bridges between medical science and engineering. The Centre is plans to conduct research with local and international partners.

The Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre is part of Qatar vision to develop a technology-based economy and to play a leading role in the region in healthcare.


Science and Technology Park set up to accelerate research

Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) was established to accelerate applied research and technology development. It was inaugurated just over a year ago by His Highness the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation. In his inaugural speech on 16 March 2009, the Emir emphasised the contribution of QSTP towards the Qatar National Vision for 2030, being “a tributary for human development, and incubator for creativity and innovation, a haven for scientific research, a magnet for national and international expertise, and a space where cultures and ethnicities interact”.

An integral part of Qatar Foundation, QSTP is a forum for interaction between academia and industry, enabling companies to benefit from cutting-edge advances at universities, and giving researchers and students access to commercial expertise and corporate employment. The creation of public-private synergies is crucial to drive economic transition from dependence on energy resources and trade to deployment of intellectual capital and knowledge. Thus QSTP encourages companies and institutes to undertake research and technology development (R&TD) by (i) providing suitable premises in a free zone innovation cluster, (ii) establishing strategic alliances with universities and government entities and (iii) offering grants and funding to projects that address national needs in collaboration with local institutes.

QSTP currently hosts 30 tenant companies, seven of which are joint-ventures with local institutions, and five conducting R&TD in health science, while most others operate in the areas of energy, environment or ICT. Companies working on medical technology are supported and steered by QSTP and include the Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre, GE Healthcare, Virgin Health Bank, deltaDOT and Qatar University Wireless Innovations Centre.

Qatar Robotic Surgery Centre operates in collaboration with Imperial College London, to educate and train surgeons, nurses and technicians, from the Middle East, on multiple applications of computer-assisted surgery.

GE Healthcare is developing advanced digital mammography technology, which will enable breast cancer screening with improved accuracy and significantly fewer false-diagnoses.

Virgin Health Bank had its headquarters relocated to Doha to collect and store regionally, umbilical cord stem cells at birth, for future use in therapies of diseases such as leukemia and thalassemia, and to enable future research in regenerative medicine.

deltaDOT brings molecular separation and proteomics to provide a platform technology used across multiple biomedical and chemical disciplines including disease diagnosis, drug development and petrochemistry.

Qatar University Wireless Innovations Centre has numerous projects in the ICT, some of which have medical applications like remote seizure detection in epilepsy patients and tele-monitoring of heart conditions for athletes, labourers and patients, for research or decision purposes. QSTP is particularly involved in the latter technology, which was developed with the help of several local partners including Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital and Q-Tel.

Investment in healthcare

Investment in healthcare is a key priority for the State of Qatar, with an allocated budget exceeding US$3 billion for 2009- 2010. As well as significantly increasing the number of hospital beds and expanding associated facilities for diagnosis and treatment, the State of Qatar intends to implement a pioneering ehealth programme across its hospitals and clinics nationwide.

Dr Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman of QSTP, said: “QSTP aims to host leading medical research that would contribute to the national strategy for knowledge economy.”

QSTP focuses on investing in developing technologies that will address the highest priority diseases in the region, notably diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, renal failure, cancer and respiratory disease. The technology park simultaneously endeavours to involve local academics and industry experts wherever possible, and we has a plethora of reputed institutions including Hamad Medical Corporation, Aspetar Sports Medicine Hospital, Weil-Cornell Medical College, Qatar Univesrsity College of Pharmacy, Sidra Medical Research Centre and Shafallah Genetics Research Centre.

“I see one of my missions at QSTP as creating inter-institutional partnerships between the aforementioned stakeholders and foreign companies or universities that approach us for support or creation of an entity at our innovation cluster. We face somewhat different challenges in building the infrastructure and human capital for the medical sector than we do for energy, environment or ICT. Medical research and development is a relative newcomer to the region, and the critical mass of researchers, technicians and laboratories is to be achieved collectively with our neighboring countries if we wish to witness rapid growth in capacity and output. QSTP has nevertheless built an impressive platform to nurture medical research locally and we are seeing the results faster than expected, thanks to strong support and commitment from our partners at Qatar Foundation and the Government of Qatar,” said Dr Maini.



WCMC-Q research takes aim at diabetes and related disorders

Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) is creating a research centre that will focus on causes and treatments for diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are major health challenges in Qatar and the Gulf Region.

With full-page advertisements in international journals, WCMC-Q has begun recruiting six full-time investigators with expertise in clinical research or translational biomedical science. The new recruits will join WCMC-Q’s existing biomedical research programme, which was established two years ago and now has more than 30 scientists and research associates as well as fully functioning support laboratories in genomics and imaging.

To accommodate its growing biomedical research programme, WCMC-Q has begun construction to double the area allocated to research. Unfinished space on the floor above the existing research wing is being turned into research laboratories, specialised procedure rooms and offices for the biomedical investigators.

“By creating a collaborative, multidisciplinary research team focused on diabetes, obesity, and related disorders, we hope to maximise the impact of our work and its benefits for Qatar and the region,” said Javaid Sheikh, MD, dean of WCMC-Q. “The buildup of the research programme is an essential part of WCMC-Q’s strategic plan for the next five years. We have successfully implemented the first phase of our plan, the establishment of a branch of Weill Cornell Medical College overseas and the awarding of the MD degree to more than 30 graduates. Now we move on to the second phase, which includes establishment of centres of excellence like this one that will focus on diabetes and related disorders,” said Dr Sheikh. “Working with our partners Hamad Medical Corporation, Sidra Medical and Research Center, and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, we believe our focus on genomic analysis can help us understand the high risk for diabetes in the Qatari population and use the information to tailor therapies for individuals based on their genes.”

Diabetes and related endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases are a leading cause of death in Qatar, according to the international classification of diseases developed by the World Health Organisation. About 18% of the Qatari population has diabetes, according to recent estimates.

“Besides providing scientific and clinical expertise in an area of crucial importance for Qatar, the centre will also help expand the country’s research infrastructure and build human capital,” says Khaled Machaca, PhD, associate dean of research.

ate of upload: 20th June 2010

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