Qatar Report

A vision of the future starts to take shape

Qatar has a long-term plan with a clear vision of how it intends to achieve its ambitious goals of establishing an integrated, academic-based, world class healthcare system that serves all the people of this small, multicultural, wealthy nation. Rachel Ann Morris reports.

Qatar is the little country that could. With the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita in the world, the country has ample resources to implement a long-term plan to ensure it remains prosperous well into the future.

However, implementing this plan is not without its challenges. Qatar’s population has more than doubled in the past decade and managing this, along with rapid economic growth, requires a clear vision and careful, steady implementation.

To steer and facilitate this growth and develop an economy that is diversified beyond dependence on oil and gas revenues, the Government initiated the Qatar National Vision 2030 – an ambitious road map for the future of Qatar.

Central to this vision is the health and wellbeing of the population. And thus a key part of this plan – and the focus of this report – is the development of the healthcare system to meet the healthcare needs of the growing, multicultural population.

Like the nation it serves, Qatar’s growing healthcare sector is undergoing rapid change. To develop from a country with just one hospital in the 1970s to a sophisticated, integrated, world-class system serving the nation’s 1.7 million residents and citizens, the Government has set an ambitious agenda for the next decade.

This development is being overseen by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) which is run under the auspices of the Minister of Health and Secretary General, His Excellency Abdulla bin Khalid Al-Qahtani.

In 2011, the SCH developed and launched the National Health Strategy 2011 to 2016, identifying 35 specific projects as a catalyst for far reaching reform of the country’s healthcare system.

Projects include transformation of cancer services in the country, as well as plans to curb the diabetes and obesity epidemics. This is underpinned by the establishment of an integrated system of healthcare for the country as well as a range of preventative programmes.

“We also aim to ensure that some of the world’s most advanced and highest quality care is available in tertiary medical facilities, which are also expected to be research leaders at the frontiers of science,” Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser said at the launch of the strategy which now forms the foundation of all policies and decisions going forward.


Towards a National Insurance Scheme

Another integral part of the strategy is the introduction of a national insurance scheme. There has been much debate about the introduction of a national health insurance scheme in Qatar.

In early 2012 the SCH formally established the 'National Health Insurance Company' that would monitor a muchawaited national health insurance scheme for all that is to be launched in phases by the end of this year.

"Health insurance is a social scheme, so we are going to provide minimum package to cover healthcare costs of everybody including visitors and we will ensure that the premium is also affordable,” Falah Mohammad Hussain Ali, SCH assistant secretary general for policy said in 2011 about the universal scheme.

A pilot scheme is expected to be in place by late 2012 with a roll out in 2013 and 2014 to cover the entire population.

Community care

The main primary healthcare provider in Qatar is the Primary Healthcare Corporation (PHCC), which was established in the 1950s to deliver quality care in the first instance to the population of Qatar.

The organization became a corporation in early 2012.

PHCC operates a network of 24 community- based centres across the country dealing with family medical issues and other concerns.

These centres provide various programmes including health awareness; child and mother care; immunization against child diseases; diagnostic and treatment services of common and chronic diseases and medications.

Covering the country

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the country’s main tertiary care provider, with eight hospitals covering the country as well as a national ambulance service and a home healthcare service.

The eight hospitals include Hamad General Hospital, Women’s Hospital, the Heart Hospital, Rumailah Hospital, National Center for Cancer Care and Research (formerly Al Amal), Al Wakra Hospital and Al Khor Hospital.

The eighth hospital, The Cuban Hospital, was formerly known as Dukhan Hospital and serves the country’s western region. It is unique in the region as it is operated administratively by HMC but staffed by 200 doctors, clinicians and nurses from Cuba. The new facility was opened by the Emir His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani in early 2012.

Infrastructure development

Next year will be significant as HMC has set “master facility plans” to take the corporation into the 21st century.

Part of the plan involves delivery and equipping three new hospitals at Medical City as part of a QR1.9bn (US$520 million) deal with the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) and South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company.

The additions to the existing Medical City campus include an all-new Ambulatory and Minimally Invasive Surgery (AMiS) Hospital, Women’s Hospital and Rehabilitation Hospital as well as the Translational Research Centre. The AMiS Hospital will have 14 surgical operating rooms equipped with all the necessary resuscitation requirements, 12 pre-operative care beds, 22 post-anaesthesia care beds, 30 stage two recovery beds, pre-admission testing, phlebotomy, gastrointestinal/endoscopy suite, clinics for podiatry, ENT/audiology, ophthalmology, and urology, in addition to 64 short-stay beds.

The ground floor will house a state-ofthe- art medical imaging suite to provide services to all of Medical City hospitals and programmes. Facilities will include two magnetic resonance imaging machines, two CT scanners, one interventional radiology, two fluoroscopy, four general X-ray and 10 ultrasound rooms. The entire complex will have a built-up area of 216,000sqm and more than 500 beds. The projects handover has been scheduled for December 2013.

Work on replacing the existing Women’s Hospital has been ongoing for some time now with conceptual space planning for the new 11-storey building.

The 190 single inpatient beds hospital will also have 53 neonatal intensive care beds, 60 examination rooms, more than 48 bassinets for newborn babies, four caesarean section and three obstetrics and gynaecology operating theatres, 21 labour and delivery rooms, integrated management services for caesarean and accident emergency operations, triage rooms, ultrasound rooms, treatment rooms and emergency delivery rooms.

The Rehabilitation Hospital has a total capacity of 200 inpatient beds including orthopaedic/trauma, stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and paediatrics. It will also include multi-disciplinary inpatient treatment services such as day rehabilitation, physiotherapy, speech therapy, adaptive living apartment, hydrotherapy and a programme to provide real-life environments that can help patients learn to adapt more easily to environments in the real world.

The Translational Research Institute (TRI) also scheduled for completion in 2013, will provide state-of-the-art core research facilities to facilitate internationally competitive outcomes in translational (bench to bedside) and clinical research.

With a focus on the fields of cancer, trauma, infectious diseases, neuroscience, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and women’s and children’s health, the TRI will provide researchers with ready access to facilities that would otherwise be unavailable in Qatar, leading to the translation of basic biomedical discoveries into new diagnostic bio-markers and therapies. The facility will consolidate all research groups across HMC, and encourage collaboration and innovation in areas including bio-informatics, ethics, molecular imaging, functional genomics, proteomics and metabolomics, clinical imaging, clinical trials and bio-statistics.

Joining the dots

As a key component of the new Academic Health System initiative, the TRI will facilitate the corporation’s development as an internationally recognised and leading health research organisation in the Gulf region. HMC is evolving into a thriving Academic Health System that links health, education and research, powered by the synergies between academic partners including Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.

The Academic Health System, while drawing on international experience, is tailored to meet the healthcare needs of Qatar today and in the future. It also seeks to improve health and wellbeing whilst expanding the boundaries of knowledge and ensuring a modern, flexible and sustainable workforce. Partners in the new venture include Qatar University, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, College of the North Atlantic Qatar, Sidra Medical and Research Center, College of the North Atlantic Qatar and the Primary Health Care Corporation.

This is the first Academic Health System in the region. It is a partnership between leading learning and research institutions and healthcare providers. They are recognised internationally as a model for pioneering research and medical discoveries and for making them available to patients. The system will see the partners build joint infrastructures in clinical care, research, education, community engagement, human resources development and information systems.

“They are synonymous around the world with academic excellence and delivery of the highest quality patient care,” Hanan Al Kuwari PhD, HMC Managing Director, said recently.

The future

The year 2013 looks to be an interesting one in healthcare with the new hospitals opening at HMC and the long awaited opening of Sidra Medical and Research Center.

Focusing on patient care and research, Sidra will be investing in the health of women and children in Qatar.

Meanwhile, HMC, PHCC and Sidra have signed an agreement with technology provider Cerner to provide integrated health information systems. (Read more about this on Page 42.)

HMC, PHCC and Cerner Corporation will work side by side during the next five years to implement the systems and ensure a seamless transition.

With the opening of the new hospitals, Qatar’s bed capacity will more than double by 2013.

“We want our people to get the best healthcare facilities,” His Excellency Al Qahtani said.

Sidra Medical and Research Center nears completion


Only a few years ago, Sidra Medical and Research Center was just a dream – a vision of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser for a hospital that would be the first academic medical centre in the region and far exceed people’s expectations. Sidra would stand out as a centre focused on the health and well-being of women and children in Qatar with an ambitious goal to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of the many diseases that plague the Middle East through innovative research, while educating the next generation of healthcare professionals.

Now, emerging from a sandy lot covering nearly 32 hectares within Qatar Foundation’s Education City, Sidra is already taking shape. Its commanding structure, which houses three distinct atriums and an outpatient building with an embedded research facility, exceeds 266,000 sqm. Advanced medical equipment is being prepared for installation and laboratories outfitted. With a US$7.9 billion endowment from the Qatar Foundation, the largest ever received by a medical centre anywhere in the world, Sidra is making certain that the facility provides a hospital environment that is nurturing, forward-thinking and integrating clinical care with research.

A building, though, no matter how technologically advanced, only represents part of what makes up a world-class hospital, and for that reason, Sidra was never meant to be built within a bubble. It is a lynchpin of the country’s National Health Strategy, and is becoming a key component of a dynamic research and education environment in Qatar, which includes leading international institutions such as Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Virgin Health Bank, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), and newly established national research centres. This research focus is evidenced by the 2.8% of Qatar’s annual GDP that has been allocated for funding and promoting research and development in the country.

Sidra will collaborate with partners such as Weill Cornell, HMC and others, on research in the area of women’s and children's health, in particular maternal and foetal health, such as diseases of pregnancy and foetal programming, and child health, with the aim of addressing these key health issues in Qatar. The National Research Strategy for Qatar has identified women’s and children's health as among the most important health issues in the country. The research conducted through such partnerships will not only serve Qataris, but will contribute to general biomedical knowledge for the whole Middle East region, where clinical research has traditionally been underserved.


One of the key challenges for Sidra will be to find the more than 5,000 top-tier clinical and healthcare professionals needed to offer this world-class research and care. Recruitment is already underway, and many top physicians and nurses are being drawn by the unprecedented opportunities for world-leading health professionals to be pioneers in the advancement of research and patient care at Sidra. Collaboration is part of the ethos Sidra wishes to build: working within inter-professional teams alongside healthcare practitioners of the highest calibre, participating and driving clinical and translational research, and seeking opportunities to contribute to the education of young professionals at partner organisations such as Weill Cornell, are all very enticing reasons for these professionals to want to work with Sidra.

What will this mean for patients? Sidra has been busy conducting extensive community studies to find out which services women and families expect of healthcare facilities, all of which is feeding into the way Sidra will operate. One thing that is sure to make a significant difference to patient care is Sidra’s high staff-to-patient ratio and its model of nursing care designed according to the best available evidence. The nurse to patient ratio – one nurse for every 1.7 patients – will allow for more individualised levels of care and encourages excellence in clinical expertise at the bedside. Master’s-prepared Clinical Nurse Leaders will be active members of the multidisciplinary team carefully planning and monitoring patient outcomes according to international benchmarks.

In addition, digital facilities will empower Sidra staff to provide healthcare that is truly tailored to each patient while at the same time ensuring patient safety is of the highest priority. Sidra aspires to be ranked among the most advanced research hospitals in the world, with spaces designed for healing as well as state-of-the-art medical equipment and sophisticated laboratories to nurture continual innovation and clinical advancement. It will operate a ‘paper-lite’ digital information system, and will utilise technology to customise care from the moment the patient enters the hospital to long after they’ve returned home.

Sidra Medical and Research Center is not only the most ambitious healthcare project in the Middle East, but maybe in the world as well. As progress continues in its building construction and recruitment of top quality clinical and research staff, there is no doubt that the team at Sidra is driven to deliver on Her Highness’ vision. Sidra is well on its way to becoming everything it is promised to be.

Al Ahli Hospital equipped to handle the changing health landscape

The picture of health in Middle East countries has changed drastically during past few decades as result of rapid socioeconomic, dietary habits and lifestyle changes. The non-communicable illnesses like heart diseases (CHD), diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cancer have become major public health problems in the GCC countries. In particular, coronary heart disease and heart failure have become the leading cause of health problems and death in Gulf States along side that of cancer. The economic as well as social burdens to any country from these acute and chronic illnesses have not been estimated, but, no doubt are immense. One large study has revealed that the Eastern European & Middle Eastern population has one of the highest rates of heart attack and strokes as well as high rates of death as a result of these conditions, compared with other regions of world.

It is evident that the incidence and prevalence of various risk factors for heart disease such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, overweight and smoking are on the increase. These multiple risk factors such as obesity, high blood sugar, deranged lipid profile, and hypertension can collectively be referred to as ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ (MS). The prevalence of the MS in the Gulf Countries is approximately 10-15% higher than in most developed countries, with generally higher prevalence rates amongst women. To this extent recent WHO statistics show that Qatari women, for example, rank 4th in the world for overweight and obesity, and indeed GCC women as a whole fall within the top 20 countries. Furthermore, in the GCC the mean age of native patients with acute coronary syndrome is where 62 years for women and 59 years for men. The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is one of the highest in the world, approaching 15 - 25% of the adult population and more than 70% of the adult population has excess body weight (overweight or obese). Twenty six percent of the adult population is hypertensive, 54% have abnormal high cholesterol and 13%-40% are smokers.

The Cardiac Centre at Al-Ahli Hospital has established itself as a fully staffed tertiary care center equipped to deal with all kinds of heart diseases. The Al-Ahli Cardiac Care Centre has a broad range of services available, including screening, diagnostic, treatment, Coronary Angiography, Percutaneous Angioplasty and stenting. Furthermore, it has recently commenced open heart surgery in order to create a more comprehensive and complete clinical cardiac service. The Cardiology Department is staffed with experienced consultants, specialist cardiologists and well-trained nurses and technicians.

A busy outpatient department caters for all kinds of patients, and offers standard ECG testing, 24 hr and 7 days Holter ECG monitoring services, 24 hour BP monitoring, exercise treadmill ECG, resting and stress echocardiography. In addition there is a modern and fully equipped angiography suite equipped to perform the highest level of percutaneous procedures.

College of the North Atlantic – Qatar introduces new training model for its programmes

College of the North Atlantic – Qatar’s School of Health Sciences has embarked on an exciting training model for its nine programmes. Inter-professional training allows students from the various programmes to train together to ensure they will be prepared for the workforce after graduation.

With programmes in Dental Assistant, Emergency Medical Science, Food Safety & Inspection, Occupational Health & Safety, Public Health, Medical Radiography Technology, Pharmacy Technician and Respiratory Therapy, the opportunity for cross-program training is almost limitless.

The training, which mimics a real-world health care scenario where professionals from different disciplines interact on a daily basis, was introduced at CNA-Q in 2010 on a small scale and has expanded over the past academic year.

The first test of the new training model came in 2011 during the CNA-Q Skills Competition which saw inter-professional teams compete in an emergency scenario. The success of the competition led organisers to expand the competition for the recent 2012 Skills Competition.

For the first time, CNA-Q students from each discipline joined students from the University of Calgary-Qatar’s nursing program, the University of Qatar’s Pharmacy program and Weill-Cornell Qatar’s Medical School in a high-stress, judged competition. In teams of nine, the students were met with several ‘real-world scenarios’ including a choking child, courtesy of the high-fidelity simulation mannequins available at CNA-Q, as well as a mock industrial accident where a volunteer had accidentally ‘amputated’ her hand with a saw.

Working together the teams moved the ‘patient’ from the accident scene to x-ray while dealing with her massive blood loss, potential drug interactions, monitoring vital signs and interviewing co-workers for potential occupational health & safety issues. With experts from industry as well as instructors from the 4 institutions judging the teams, they moved quickly to ensure their patient’s survival.

The inter-professional training at CNAQ is among the first of its kind in a college program and serves as a model for Health Sciences training.

CNA-Q has been the leading technical college in Qatar since 2002 offering more than 30 programmes in Business Studies, Engineering Technology, Health Sciences and Information Technology. With a strong tie to local industry, CNA-Q programmes are tailored to ensure graduates receive the training needed the workforce.

Discover nursing at the University of Calgary – Qatar

University of Calgary - Qatar opened and accepted its first students in September 2007. UCQ provides students with an innovative blend of world class Canadian nursing education combined with respect for local traditions, customs and religion. Classes are taught by Canadian-educated professors who are accomplished nurse leaders. Nursing students who attend the University of Calgary - Qatar meet the same rigorous Canadian and international standards. In June 2010, UCQ celebrated its inaugural convocation, graduating 24 professional nurses equipped with world-class education and practical skills that they are now using in the healthcare system in Qatar.

Our vision is to enrich health and wellness in Qatar and the Gulf region through world-class education of nursing leaders and practitioners. Our mission is to excel in the education of nurses who will become renowned for excellence in practice; the preparation of nurse leaders who will contribute to the development of the emerging healthcare system; and research and educational initiatives that will contribute to health and wellness.

The University of Calgary - Qatar offers cutting-edge research and educational initiatives that advance health science and community wellness. Our programme is designed to help our students succeed as they earn their Bachelor of Nursing Degree and become tomorrow’s healthcare professionals.

Students have the opportunity to participate in fully funded research projects. They have access to state-of-the-art technology in our advanced simulation and clinical laboratories which offers them opportunities for hands-on learning. Students apply their theoretical knowledge and practical skills in practicum at Qatar’s leading hospitals and clinics.

UCQ offers the following programmes:

- Bachelor of Nursing Regular Track

- Diploma in Nursing: Both of the above programmes are for high school graduates or students who have studied in another subject area at another post-secondary institution.

- Bachelor of Nursing Post-Diploma: For working nurses who already hold a recognised Diploma in Nursing.

- Foundation Program: a programme for students to upgrade their English, math and science backgrounds to enter the Diploma or Bachelor of Nursing programmes.

For more information, please visit: or call: +974-44065200.

 Date of upload: 20th Jun 2012


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