WHO: Urgent work is needed to rehabilitate the health system in Gaza to prevent loss of lives

Urgent work is needed to rehabilitate the damaged health system in Gaza to prevent further loss of life after the recent conflict, according to a World Health Organization led joint assessment of health needs and services in Gaza, released 12 October 2014.

During the conflict more than half of existing hospitals and health centres were damaged or destroyed, and over 11,000 people were injured, putting immense strain on remaining facilities. The assessment found critical shortages of essential medicines and other supplies, medical equipment out-dated or in need of repair, health staff unpaid and in need of targeted trainings, and an urgent need to ensure sufficient fuel supply for generators at health facilities.

“The health system in Gaza was already on the brink of collapse after decades of occupation, and years of blockade and conflict,” Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said. “We need sustained interventions to repair and rehabilitate the damage done during the conflict, and to strengthen the health system for the future. Without this, more unnecessary loss of life will inevitably occur.”

Beyond those injured by violence, the assessment showed that during and after the conflict people with chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes suffered from inaccessibility of services, shortage of drugs, and an increase in the demand for referrals outside of Gaza for patients who cannot receive adequate services in the Strip.

The assessment also warned of long-term increased demands on health services by more than 1,000 patients who acquired long-term or permanent injuries in the conflict, and the anticipated increase in mental health needs such as PTSD and depression. (WHO estimates 20% of the population in emergency-affected areas will require some form of mental health intervention.)

“WHO is working closely with the Palestinian Ministry of Health to provide patients in Gaza with access to high quality health care. This will require sustained support from donors, and unimpeded access for medicines, essential supplies and medical equipment and reconstruction materials to enter Gaza,” said Dr Alwan.

WHO is supporting the following activities: repair and rehabilitation of 67 damaged hospitals and primary health centres; provision of quality essential public health services, including mental health; provision of essential medicines, especially for chronic illnesses; rehabilitation of the disease early warning system; coordination of the health sector and management of health information; facilitation of 2,000 referral patients per month for specialized medical treatment outside of Gaza.

The Gaza Strip Joint Health Sector Assessment Report is the result of quantitative and qualitative data collection undertaken at the beginning of September 2014, with the support of 23 partner organizations working in response the conflict in Gaza.

The Gaza Strip Joint Health Sector Assessment Report http://tinyurl.com/kvoocxb

WISH appoints chair for Cancer Care forum

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), has appointed Professor Robert J S Thomas OAM, Chief Cancer Advisor at the Department of Health, Victoria, Australia, to chair its Delivering Affordable Cancer Care Forum.

Professor Thomas will lead a team of international experts to prepare an evidence- based report that focuses on the key issues surrounding affordable cancer care provision, including:

- Understanding cost issues along the pathway of clinical care

- The design of innovative approaches for affordable delivery models for cancer care both in the developing world and in high resource countries

- Innovations around pricing and incentive structures for drugs and high cost treatments

- Assessing better use of technology advances to add value to current cancer care methods

The Forum will then present its findings and recommendations for discussion at the next WISH Summit taking place on 17 – 18 February 2015 in Doha, Qatar.

Professor Thomas said: “This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a team of internationally-renowned experts and produce recommendations that will help policy-makers design, deliver and maintain affordable cancer care services while improving patient experience. This is a multidisciplinary group, and it is my hope that we will be able to discover new evidence-based insights and perspectives on an urgent healthcare challenge which affects the lives of almost everyone.”

Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College of London, said: “The human, social and economic implications of cancer are immense. At a time when both the incidence and costs of treating cancer are increasing rapidly - especially in lower and middle income countries - it is undoubtedly one of the most important global health priorities.

“I am therefore delighted that Professor Thomas, who is well renowned for work he has undertaken with policymakers in Australia to develop new approaches to cancer care, will lead this important work on behalf of WISH. The Forum will provide a framework to enable policy and decision makers to tackle some of the obstacles to sustainable treatment and care, and create tangible benefits for those affected by cancer around the world.”

With the appointment of Professor Thomas, WISH aims to improve understanding of the multitude of factors that are driving unsustainable and dramatic cost inflation with cancer care services. The aim of the Forum will be to make practical recommendations that might enable policy makers to minimize the economic challenges and ensure sustainable access for patients to high quality cancer care services.

Professor Thomas is Chief Cancer Advisor to the Victorian Government in Australia and Chair of the Victorian Cancer Agency with responsibility for the translational research and funding of cancer research in Victoria. He is also Chair of the National Cancer Expert Reference Group for the Australian Government, Research Director for Global Health Delivery, International Prevention Research Institute and Distinguished Fellow, Surgical Oncology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne.

Delivering Affordable Cancer Care is one of seven research streams to be presented at the 2015 WISH Summit, where world leading experts will join an influential community of heads of state, government ministers, academics, clinicians, policy makers and business leaders to discuss innovative solutions to some of the most pressing global health challenges. As well as Delivering Affordable Cancer Care, WISH will publish reports on Communicating Complex Health Messages, Diabetes, Dementia, Universal Health Coverage, Mental Health and Well-being in Children and Young People, and Patient Safety.

DHCC introduces Appeals Board

The Appeals Board, which provides healthcare professionals and healthcare operators with an independent system to appeal against decisions relating to licensing or complaints, was formally introduced at Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) on September 15, 2014.

The members are Dr Guy Fish, Senior Vice President at Fletcher Spaght, US, who is the current Chairman of the Board; Melanie Ho, Sales Consultant, TB&C, Singapore; Dr Alawi Al-Shaikh, Chairman, Institute of Cardiac Sciences at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE; and Dr Matthew Lohn, Managing Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse, UK. Each member was carefully considered and vetted before appointment by DHCC, and will serve for an initial term of two years.

The introduction of the Appeals Board marks a significant juncture by DHCC, allowing a healthcare professional or a healthcare operator in the Dubai Healthcare City to appeal against decisions relating to licensing of healthcare professionals, including Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) professionals and healthcare operators, and to appeal against complaints in relation to activities carried out in DHCC.

Marwan Abedin, CEO, DHCC, said: “The Appeals Board is part of a much broader regulatory framework that is in place to instil confidence in DHCC’s healthcare standards and our governance structure. Effective and transparent regulation is a crucial factor for any medical city. As DHCC rolls out its expansion plans – against the backdrop of a growing population, medical tourism initiatives and our Phase 2 wellness concept – we are cognizant of regulation as an important driver to support long-term growth and ensure an optimum environment of care.”

Regulation and licensure of all healthcare professionals and healthcare operators together with the handling of any complaints arising from the provision of clinical services is handled by the Center for Healthcare Planning and Quality (CPQ), an independent regulator overseen by Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA), the governing body and regulator of Dubai Healthcare City.

Earlier this year, CPQ received the 2nd Edition of the Outpatient Clinic Quality Standards accreditation, valid from May 2013 to April 2017 from The International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua), a global leader in assessing the standards in healthcare safety and quality.

India attracting increasing numbers of patients from GCC

Apollo Hospitals, one of Asia’s leading healthcare providers, said it has seen growing interest from patients from GCC and the greater Middle Eastern region. In a statement it notes that the Indian medical tourism industry is projected to reach US$2 billion with an estimated 3,200,000 medical travellers arriving in India by 2015 growing at an annual rate of 30%.

Apollo Hospitals noted that it recently teamed up with Dubai-based Emirates airline to connect international patients with quality healthcare services in India. As part of the joint venture with Emirates, the patients and their attendants from 19 countries across Middle East and Africa can visit the hospital’s flagship locations in Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmadabad and Bangalore to avail specially formulated fares for round-trip flights on the airline.

Dr. K. Hariprasad, CEO, Apollo Hospitals, said: “The proven Indian clinical competencies give India a huge competitive advantage. We have seen the number of patients visiting us from GCC region growing at a rapid pace. In the last few quarters we have seen a remarkable increase from UAE, Qatar and Oman. Comparing global prices for medical treatment, India leads in the race for providing quality healthcare services at affordable prices. A heart bypass surgery in India costs US$ 6,500, while in the US it costs between $30,000 and $80,000. This is a huge, untapped market, not just for therapeutic medical tourism like Ayurveda, but also for curative treatment.”

Infertility treatment tops list of medical tourism procedures

Infertility treatment tops the list of medical tourism procedures, according to a new survey conducted by Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC).

The global trend points to cosmetic surgery, dentistry, orthopaedic and heart surgery as the most common procedures people undergo on medical tourism trips according to US-based public health institute Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions.

Infertility treatment topping the list of procedures medical tourists undergo at DHCC bucks the global trend of common medical tourism procedures. Following infertility treatment, the survey findings point that medical tourists opt for cosmetic, dental, cardiac, and orthopaedic procedures, treatments or tests.

The survey was commissioned by Dubai Healthcare City using respondents from its 120 medical facilities. The data collected represents a six-month period, beginning January 2014. The sample size was weighted for facilities that offer clinical services so that it was representative of medical tourism profile. Key findings state 48% medical tourists come primarily from the GCC; 32% from the wider Arab World; 26% from Eastern and Western Europe; and 23% from Asia.

Lebanon sets out National Polio Immunization Campaign

The Lebanese Paediatric Society (LPS) and the Ministry of Public Health held a national meeting to set the foundation of the National Polio Immunization Campaign that was due to be launched in October. The meeting was held at the Lebanese Order of Physicians; with the collaboration of UNICEF, WHO, the Lebanese Society of Physicians, the National Certification Committee (NCC) and the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) committee and was attended by paediatricians and physicians from the private and public hospitals.

The meeting marked the start of the national drive to stop polio from regaining a foothold in Lebanon after its resurgence in the region. Lebanon has been free of the highly infectious disease for the past 11 years. Since the beginning of 2014, four immunisation rounds have been held. These started in March, and include immunisation weeks in high-risk areas across Lebanon over the summer months.

“Children need the strong immunity delivered by the oral polio drops and they need multiple doses,” said Dr. Imad Chokr President of LPS. “Our message to families is clear: every child must participate in every round to prevent lifelong paralysis and keep Lebanon polio-free. Even one unvaccinated child puts all other children in Lebanon at risk.”

WHO polio-prevention representatives meet in Muscat

Key World Health Organization (WHO) representatives dedicated to the global fight to eradicate polio met in Muscat in September to discuss plans to prevent outbreaks of polio in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa and to stop transmission of the crippling and potentially deadly disease in the endemic countries Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Representatives from across the Eastern Mediterranean Region acknowledged the difficulties faced at the level of individual countries in delivering programs and identified new tactics to focus efforts on stopping transmission in the coming months, including outbreak countries Somalia, Syria and Iraq.

“We are facing a nine-month period of intensified activity and in all of our zones of operation we are planning how best we can support the implementation of programs to effectively put a stop to polio,” said Chris Maher, WHO’s Manager of Polio Eradication and Emergency Support in the region.

The group of more than 40 WHO officials, mostly medical staff, identified a number of actions to prioritize operational activities targeting high-risk populations in infected and at-risk countries. The WHO experts also discussed such issues as strengthening routine immunization, the introduction of the injectable polio vaccine (IPV), surveillance and data, risk assessment, access to hard-to-reach areas and populations, communications and advocacy, among other topics.

$1 million allocated for UAE-based medical research centre

UAE-based Integrated medical services provider VPS Healthcare has allocated US$1 million for research and development in several key areas of medicine and treatment, focusing on chronic diseases and illnesses associated with old age.

VPS Healthcare has outlined a plan for its Research Centre of Excellence, a stateof- the-art R&D practice dedicated to expanding our knowledge of chronic diseases and to provide innovative treatment solutions to help the medical community combat a variety of illnesses.

“The first comprehensive project the Centre will undertake will be the study of Vitamin D-related ailments,” explained Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, VPS Healthcare’s Managing Director. The research will address key issues such as the causes and consequences of Vitamin D deficiencies, and the effect deficiency has on pregnancy within the UAE.

To lead this effort, VPS Healthcare has appointed Dr. Afrozul Haq, a renowned expert in the field of Vitamin D research, to act as the principle scientist for the Centre’s inaugural project. Dr. Haq, who pioneered Vitamin D research in the UAE in 2006 at SKMC, will work to establish a solid R&D platform within the rapidly expanding VPS Healthcare infrastructure. This is something Dr. Haq views as essential to the future of preventative medicine.

“Our research will explore the link between dental caries in children, maternal Vitamin D concentrations at term, and the link between maternal Vitamin D levels with birth weight of the newborn,” said Dr. Haq. “We will also study the impact of Vitamin D deficiency on chronic kidney disease patients requiring dialysis.”

“Medical services cannot evolve without a commitment to research and development,” Dr. Shamsheer explained. “We all know that innovation is a key driver of sustained healthcare improvement, and that no new technologies or medications have ever been introduced without breakthroughs brought from purposeful research.”

The Research Centre of Excellence will work closely with a variety of partners in the UAE in the pursuit of medical innovation. The Centre will be able to leverage the research abilities of entities such as Khalifa University, Zayed University and Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, as well as VPS Healthcare’s many international partners.

Young healthcare innovators called to participate

The World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH), a global initiative of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, is seeking talented, young healthcare innovators from around the world to participate in its Young Innovators program. The program will offer young people aged up to 30 years the opportunity to showcase their healthcare innovations at the 2015 WISH Summit taking place on 17-18 February 2015, in Doha, Qatar.

The program will also offer young innovators a unique opportunity to meet many leading health experts, policy and decision makers from around the world and provide a platform to develop and promote their ideas.

Some successful applicants may also be asked to contribute to a range of activities focusing on innovation in healthcare at the Summit. This may include taking part in panel discussions with senior delegates, explaining their own work and debating the challenges and opportunities experienced by young innovators seeking to make a difference in healthcare.

Their contribution will be recorded in the Summit’s official record and made available on the WISH website. WISH is seeking applications from young people who study at Qatar-based universities and colleges. Successful applicants will be those who can demonstrate:

- Significant achievement innovating in a health-related field

- A proven track record of leadership and creating change for the benefit of their targeted community

- A commitment to innovation in healthcare and its outcomes

Entries will be reviewed by the Professor the Lord Darzi of Denham, Executive Chair of WISH and Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London, as well as a team of experts convened by WISH.

Lord Darzi, said: “Innovation and collaboration are the keys to tackling many of the most pressing international healthcare challenges. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a limited number of young innovators from around the world, to meet and share their ideas with senior global healthcare experts and decision makers.

We hope to receive applications about innovations that may very well shape the future of healthcare.” Applications should be submitted by 15 October 2014.

Further details on the entry process, including the application form, can be found at: www.wish.org.qa/2015-summit/young-innovators


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