Saudi health ministry inks partnership with BMJ

BMJ, one of the world’s leading medical knowledge providers, has signed an “Executive Agreement for Cooperation in Health Learning and research” with the Ministry of Health (MoH) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide unrestricted access to its online learning, decision support tools, quality improvement platform and journals for health professionals across the Kingdom.

The five-year partnership was signed recently during a ceremony at the Department of Health in London with Saudi Health Minster Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and the UK’s Undersecretary of State for Health, Anne Soubry both in attendance and forms part of the Saudi government’s 20-year workforce transformation strategy to improve the consistency and quality of healthcare throughout the Kingdom.

Speaking at the launch ceremony, Al Rabeeah said that online services are being introduced to help medics and paramedics stay up-to-date with the latest advances in the field of medicine. Thousands of healthcare professionals employed by MoH hospitals, National Guard, Ministry of Defence and Aviation, Ministry of Interior and private hospitals will benefit from open access to a selection of BMJ’s renowned evidence-based journals, learning, decision support and quality improvement resources.

BMJ CEO, Tim Brooks, said: “The agreement provides clinicians across the Kingdom with the very best tools to develop their knowledge and skills, practice evidence-based medicine, and improve outcomes for their patients, with access to medical information covering 10,000 topics in over 20 specialities. “The BMJ is committed to achieving high quality, evidence-based healthcare for patients throughout the world.

We are very proud that the Kingdom has chosen to collaborate with us on this important project and we look forward to sharing our expertise with the medical workforce of this country,” he added. The partnership agreement with BMJ provides ministry of healthcare professionals with open access to resources such as BMJ Best Practice, offering fast and easy access to the latest research evidence, guidelines and expert opinions at the point of care - in hospital, at the clinic or on a mobile device, enabling clinicians to make the best decisions for their patients. Clinicians will also have free on-line access to seven key BMJ Journals covering the latest research, news and expert opinion: Heart, Gut, DTB (Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin), EMJ (Emergency Medicine Journal), British Journal of Ophthalmology, BJSM (British Journal of Sports Medicine) and Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Another major resource is BMJ Learning, which is a fully accredited online learning module covering over 1,000 medical specialties and clinical areas, allowing clinicians to study at their own pace and convenience. This includes an online platform which supports individuals and teams through healthcare improvement projects and onto publication in the BMJ Quality Improvement Reports journal. “This provides the necessary framework, learning modules, tools and resources to make healthcare improvement simple,” said Brooks.

Events company raises awareness of increasing cancer cases in Palestine

According to a recent report from the Information Center at the Ministry of Health in Palestine, 12.4% of the total deaths in Palestine were caused by cancer in 2013, with an increase of 2% from the previous year. With the lack of resources and limited accessibility to medication in the West Bank and Gaza, the number of deaths due to cancer increases year by year.

The Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Center, located in Beit Jala, Palestine was founded by the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) as a means of seeking a solution to the problem.

The company, entourage marketing & events, has signed an MOU with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), UAE chapter, with a view to increase the number of beds at the cancer center. Currently, there are only 14 hospital beds in the pediatric cancer center, and entourage hopes to increase that number by at least 20 beds before the end of the year. There are between 90-120 new cases of cancer in children recorded every year. There are not enough beds in the Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Center to treat even a fraction of these cases.

The PCRF is a non-profit organization that provides free medical assistance to children from all over the Middle East. The cancer center is the first privately owned hospital in the Palestinian Territories for cancer treatment and has been funded entirely by donations from all over the world. Facilities and equipment are still being added to the center, and donations are continuously being collected.

In order to increase the availability of treatment and medical resources for the maximum number of patients possible, entourage marketing & events will take over the live communication strategy for the PCRF, UAE chapter. Through entourage’s work with the PCRF, entourage’s team will be dedicated to providing the PCRF with support in PR, creative, social media management and the conceptualizing of all PCRF corporate events within the UAE.

HAAD calls for regular screening for colorectal cancer

To reduce the mortality rate attributed to colorectal cancer, the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulatory body of the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is advocating regular screening for the disease in the form of either a colonoscopy or a simple stool test called Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).

Colorectal cancer, the collective term for the growth of malignant tumours in the colon or the rectum, has become the third most common cancer in Abu Dhabi. It is estimated that colonoscopy screening prevents 40% of colorectal cancer cases.

FIT is a newer kind of stool test that detects hidden blood in the stool. According to HAAD statistics, 9% of new local cases of cancer in 2012 were colorectal in nature. In 2012, 59% of the cases were males and the average age of incidence was determined to be 54 years.

52% of deaths were in men. Although not all risk factors have been identified, high fat, low fiber diets, lack of exercise and genetic abnormalities are among those known.

HAAD recommends a colonoscopy every 10 years for individuals – men and women – aged 40 and above or a FIT stool test every two years. HAAD urged the community to perform the screening test for reassurance. Emiratis are eligible for screening through their Thiqa insurance, but tests for non UAE Nationals vary based on insurance policy and benefits.

More than 25 facilities across Abu Dhabi Emirate provide screening services. To enable accessibility to screening services, HAAD created an online booking tool; it is available on

Kuwait provides funds for WHO work in Syria

The World Health Organization (WHO) has received US$10 million from the Government of Kuwait to support its activities in Syria as a result of the war, According to an April 9 WHO statement. This contribution is a continuation to the $35 million provided by Kuwait in 2013.

“WHO extends its profound gratitude to the Government of the State of Kuwait for the new donation, which makes it possible for WHO to continue to reach vulnerable people in both Syria and neighbouring countries to provide access to basic and essential life-saving care,” said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. In a commemorative ceremony held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva Switzerland, Dr Abdullah Al-Matouq, Special Adviser to His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, presented the donation.

It was commended by Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director General for Health Security and Environment, who said: “The assistance provided by Kuwait will contribute to delivering medicines, vaccines and medical care for close to 7 million people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.”

Kuwait has played a major role as a contributor to WHO’s efforts in strengthening disease surveillance and polio and measles vaccination of millions of children.

This is in addition to ensuring medicines, vaccines, surgical supplies and medical equipment get to hard-to-reach hospitals and health centres. The WHO said it would ensure the new contribution of $10 million is effectively utilized for the life-saving care of millions of Syrians affected by the war, with focus on pressing needs, such as vaccination and improved disease surveillance systems.

SKMC’s paediatric cardiac surgery program boosts survival rates from 20% to 80%

The unique paediatric cardiac surgery program at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), the only one of its kind in the country, has brought hope to thousands of newborns over the years, as it draws closer to its seventh anniversary of operation this year.

Before the era of paediatric cardiac surgery, the chances of survival past 18 years old for a newborn with congenital heart disease fell below 20%, whereas presently more than 80% live past 20 years old, according to Dr Laszlo Kiraly, Chief of Paediatric Cardiac Surgery at SKMC. According to the physician’s data, more than 500 babies are born with congenital heart disease in the UAE every year, with nearly 70% of them requiring cardiac surgery, and more than half of those within the first six months of life.

“There is great public demand for this service, as parents may not be able to take their newborn baby overseas for treatment which is predominantly surgical and can be prohibitively expensive. SKMC has the only service that is a dedicated 24/7 comprehensive program for paediatric heart disease,” Dr Kiraly said.

“We have been nominated by SEHA as ‘a centre of excellence’ that has gained the support and confidence of the community, with a third of our patients being locals,” he added.

In 2013, SKMC’s one-of-a-kind paediatric cardiac surgery program reached over 1800 surgeries conducted since its inception, treating between 300 and 330 cases per year since it started in 2007. In addition to operating on children with congenital heart disorders, the paediatric cardiac surgery team treat adolescents and adults that were born with cardiac defects and who weren’t able to have their problems resolved in their youth.

SKMC’s Grown Up Congenital Heart or ‘GUCH’ program is another initiative that is the only one of its kind in the country. The GUCH program treats patients who often fall into a ‘grey area,’ between children and adults, so a multidisciplinary input is required involving both the hospital’s adult and paediatric services.

The program requires special expertise as traditional cardiac surgery for an older person is geared towards the treatment of heart disease associated with aging and lifestyle, with the focus being on the replacement of blocked coronary arteries and damaged heart valves, as opposed to the correction of birth defects in the adult age.

The paediatric cardiac surgery division has the country’s only Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) program for paediatric patients, which is an advanced form of life support used to treat infants and children in cardiac and/ or respiratory failure.

It works as a modified form of heart and lung bypass on a temporary basis, and is an alternative to conventional methods of life support. “The ability to improve the life of a child and enable them to grow up fit and strong is one of the greatest gifts a person can bestow on society and is a skill that demands recognition.

SKMC’s paediatric cardiac surgery outcomes exceed those even in the US, according to a University HealthSystem Consortium Discharges report,” said Dr Abdulmajeed Al Zubaidi, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist and Chief Medical Officer at SKMC.

King Faisal Prize awarded for foetal diseases discovery

At a ceremony in Riyadh in March, the 2014 King Faisal International Prize for Medicine was awarded to Yuk Ming Dennis Lo for his research on Non-Invasive Diagnosis of Fetal Diseases.

The prize consists of a certificate, hand-written in Diwani calligraphy, summarizing the laureate’s work; a commemorative 24 carat, 200 gram gold medal, uniquely cast for each Prize; and a cash endowment of Saudi Riyal 750,000 (about US$200,000).

In 1997 Dennis Lo discovered the presence of cell-free foetal DNA, RNA and miRNA in the plasma of pregnant women, creating a paradigm shift in non-invasive prenatal diagnosis. He elucidated the fundamental characteristics of such molecules, developed the technologies for their analysis, conceptualised their use and brought non-invasive prenatal diagnosis to a reality.

He achieved the non-invasive prenatal diagnosis of trisomy 21 or Down’s syndrome, which has been hailed as the Holy Grail in prenatal diagnosis. Within a few years of the discovery, tests, such as sex determination for sex-linked genetic disorders, began to be clinically used in many centres, replacing the corresponding conventional tests.

This discovery opened up new possibilities for non-invasive prenatal diagnosis, and has effectively reduced our reliance on previous invasive and potentially risky, methods.

Dennis Lo transformed the field of prenatal genetic diagnosis through his discovery of cell free foetal nucleic acids in the maternal blood and the identification of their placental source. He built upon this pivotal discovery to develop and translate techniques for risk free determination of foetal aneuploidy an d monogenic disease, and ultimately the sequencing of the full foetal genome from cell free DNA.

Professor Yuk Ming Dennis Lo is the Director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, the Li Ka Shing Professor of Medicine and Professor of Chemical Pathology of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He is also the Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Medicine of CUHK.

Abu Dhabi’s SEHA to partner with Canada’s University Health Network

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) has signed a cooperation agreement with Canada’s largest research hospital, University Health Network (UHN), with the attention of improving the level of medical services provided by SEHA’s Health System facilities.

This will be achieved by entering into international healthcare partnerships in order to share experiences and keep abreast with the latest healthcare technology, since UHN is internationally known for its medical quality and excellence. The agreement was signed by Rashid Al- Qubaisi, Chief Executive officer at SEHA, Nizar Mahomed, Director General of UHN, A UHN delegation from Canada and representatives from the Canadian Embassy and a number of officials from SEHA also witnessed the signing of the agreement.

Under the five-year agreement, both parties will exchange expertise and modern technology, as well as engaging in joint research and training programmes, which will include training of SEHA’s medical and nursing staff at UHN in Canada. In addition, SEHA and UHN will carry out joint projects to improve the quality of medical services offered.

The cooperation agreement essentially aims at exchanging visits between faculty members at Canadian medical institutions including scientists, doctors and specialists, along with the medical and nursing staff in SEHA. Furthermore, the agreement intends to benefit from UHN’s experience and knowledge of scientific research and professional services in developing the healthcare services provided by SEHA and its facilities to its patients.

Rashid Al-Qubaisi conveyed SEHA’s keenness to deliver world-class healthcare services to its patients and local communities within Abu Dhabi. With regard to this, he stated: “Due to the fact that UHN represents one of the largest teaching hospitals networks in Canada, and enjoys international reputation and fame, we look forward to gain from their global knowhow and expertise in the medical sector, and harness it to serve the people of Abu Dhabi.”

Al-Qubaisi continued: “The agreement will enable the medical, nursing and management staff at all SEHA’s facilities to exchange information, articles, reports and educational materials in order to support education and training programmes at SEHA, and develop shared academic projects between both parties.

This includes collaborative research, teaching, technical cooperation, and evaluation of specific programmes.” He also asserted that the agreement will allow SEHA to develop and improve its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and quality metrics to improve its services According to Dr Nizar Mahomed: “The UHN will offer SEHA the essence of its expertise and experiences in the medical field, which will be aimed at raising the quality of healthcare provided to its clients in Abu Dhabi, especially the modern technologies owned by UHN.”