New UAE MoH strategy

The UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) in August released details of its 2008-2010 strategic framework which places significant emphasis on upgrading healthcare facilities in the Emirates.

Detailing the objectives of the plan, Hamid Al Qatami, Minister for Health, said: “The strategy reflects the ministry’s determination in upgrading services. The ministry will also focus on enhancing its regulatory role and will strive to raise the level of its high calibre scientific, technical and administrative personnel.

“We seek to transform the ministry from being a service provider to one with more strategic responsibility. The ministry should focus on developing rules and regulations that govern the healthcare sector. Medical services will be the responsibility of the recently launched Emirates Health Authority (EHA) that will operate independently at both financial and administrative levels.

The EHA will begin operating in January 2008. It will oversee the restructuring and day-to-day running of state healthcare facilities. The MoH will continue to manage licensing, auditing and legislation.

“The ministry's ultimate objective is to lay the foundation for sustainable development within the healthcare sector which follows international best practices. Building and sustaining the country’s medical expertise is high on our agenda.”

He said the ministry also wants to increase UAE nationals’ contribution to this sector by developing second and third generation medical professionals.

Al Qatami stressed that the ministry’s plans are in line with the Government’s new strategy recommendations which highlights healthcare as an important prerequisite for achieving sustainable social development.

The strategy covers 35 key initiatives to be implemented during the next three years. These include building an electronic network to connect the country's hospitals and healthcare centres, building a medical archiving system and national health database in association with the UAE e-Government, developing a comprehensive training programme for the ministry's staff and completing more than 25% of the tasks before end of 2008.

“The ministry has developed a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) following best international standards. The KPIs will help us monitor the progress of our plans and will ensure successful implementation of various initiatives,” he said.

The ministry will also work on applying a new self management system for public hospitals to grant them more operational independence and flexibility. Such a system is to be deployed in all public hospitals before end of 2010.

The MoH will also set up quality control units in all healthcare facilities that will help prepare for accreditation according to international standards



Queen Rania promotes breastfeeding

The Jordan Times reports that Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, in her capacity as UNICEFs Eminent Advocate for Children, has called on all concerned to improve efforts at breastfeeding.

The Queen said on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week in July: “There is nothing more natural, nothing more instinctive, and nothing more effective than breastfeeding. Protecting her baby is a mother’s first instinct and a mother’s milk is the most powerful vaccine there is against infectious and noninfectious disease. That is why I am proud of UNICEF’s efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding.

“The fact is, breastfeeding can save lives. Exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months can reduce child mortality by 13%. Early initiation within the first hour of birth can prevent 22% of all neonatal deaths. These are not statistics any mother wants to gamble with,” she added.

The report quotes UNICEF figures saying the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has witnessed a steady increase in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding since 1990 and parallel success in infant mortality reduction in the last 10 years. However, the latest available figures reveal that only a modest 38% of infants in the region are exclusively breastfed from birth until sixth months of age, a figure barely above the global average of 36% but equal to the present performance in East Asia and the Pacific.

The newspaper notes that countries in the MENA region are in the process of implementing Infant and Young Child Feeding strategies, with exclusive breastfeeding at the core of institutional and community-based interventions and that an Arab intercountry WHOUNICEF sponsored workshop held in Damascus last May issued recommendations with aims to curb declining rates of exclusive breastfeeding throughout the region, which include the expansion of awareness and educational interventions reaching communities, capacity building of health workers and enhanced monitoring of trends in countries like Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Egypt.



War refugees swamp Syria

Syria’s Minister of Health said providing free medical care to the over 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria is costing the country around US$60 million a year. He criticised the international community for failing to take responsibility for the burden, according to IRIN News.

“It was the duty of the international community to take the initiative long before now to stop the suffering of our Iraqi brothers,” said Maher Housami, speaking on 30 July at the end of a twoday conference in Damascus organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address the health crisis among Iraqi refugees’ displaced by the four-yearold US-led invasion.

The WHO conference, attended by the health ministers of Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, as well as WHO and UN officials, met to discuss Iraqi refugees’ access to health care in Syria and the need to formulate a plan to counter the strain being placed on the national health system.

Housami expressed his disappointment that the USA had not provided countries in the region, particularly Syria and Jordan – who between them currently shelter an estimated 2.25 million Iraqi refugees – with greater financial support.

Housami said at an earlier meeting in Amman, Jordan that Syria had been able to face the challenge for the past three years, but “the suffering has surfaced now and Syria is no longer capable of enduring this burden".

The Syrian Government provides Iraqi refugees with free education and health care, but the massive influx of people – estimated at around 40,000 per month – means hospitals and clinics are often too overcrowded to treat refugees.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provided funds for medical needs, including a US$2.06 million contribution to the Ministry of Health for the rehabilitation of hospitals, in a deal signed last May.

The agency is also involved in a project to launch a new hospital in October staffed by and catering for Iraqis.



Iraq doctors strike

IRIN News reports that nearly 150 doctors in Basra, Iraq, began a three-day strike on 23 July, demanding the government protect them and their families. “We will not attend our clinics and will not do operations for three days to draw to the government's attention our plight as doctors living in harsh conditions,” said Dr Muaid Jumaa, head of the Basra Doctors’ Association.

Jumaa said 12 doctors had been killed in Basra by unidentified gunmen since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, and dozens of others had fled the city. “We are protesting against the assassinations, kidnappings, threats and blackmail facing doctors in Basra and calling on the government to shoulder its responsibilities in protecting this important sector of our society,” Jumaa said.

“The government has to improve the security situation in the province and this is not hard,” he continued. "We call on the government and parliament to adopt laws to protect doctors. Tough punishments should be meted out to those who threaten, kidnap and kill doctors.”

According to figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry released earlier this year, 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, as well as medics and other healthcare workers, have been killed nationwide since 2003. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of other medical personnel are believed to have fled to Iraq's northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and neighbouring countries.



Saudi seeks 13,000 doctors

Saudi Arabia is seeking 13,000 family doctors to work at its primary health centres, according to Dr Obaid ibn Sulaiman Al- Obaid, deputy health minister for planning and development.

“We have already signed contracts with Egyptian authorities to recruit 4,000 family doctors... It will take time to supply the adequate number of family doctors required by health centres across the country,” he was quoted as saying in Arab News.

The newspaper reported that the family and community health system is being introduced into the kingdom for the first time and that the kingdom is planning to develop 2,000 health centres within the next three years.

The ministry is introducing the system as part of its efforts to combat chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart ailments as well as nutrition problems. Under the programme, each Saudi family in the kingdom will be assigned a special doctor in a primary health centre.

The current patient doctor ratio in Saudi Arabia is 1:4,000. “We intend to bring it down to 1:400,” said Al-Obaid. This compares with an average ratio internationally of between 1:1,500 and 1:2,000.



Oman telemedicine deal

Oman’s Muscat-based Apollo Medical Centre has established the country’s first telemedicine service in the private sector. The service links the centre with the Apollo group of hospitals in India. Dr Pratap C Reddy, chairman of Apollo Group of Hospitals, said: “This is a milestone in healthcare relations between Oman and India.”

Patients from Oman will now be able to first consult experts in India through the 24-hour telemedicine service before travelling for treatment. Dr Reddy said after Oman, Yemen would be linked next. Apollo Telemedicine Network, inaugurated by former US president Bill Clinton in 2000 in Hyderabad, is the largest telemedicine network in India.



Welcare World installs WiMAX

Dubai-based Welcare World Systems has installed a wireless telecommunication link to improve data communication between its Welcare Hospital and the various clinics in the group. It is believed to be the first private healthcare group in the UAE to use this technology.

David Ho, Welcare World Director of IT, says: “The high data transfer speed of the pre- WiMAX link enables the hospital and clinics within the Welcare Group to operate more efficiently and deliver better patient service.”

The speed and capacity of this link will enable the group to implement a centralised Electronic Medical Record database where up-todate patient information and test results are accessible from anywhere, at anytime, within the group’s hospitals and clinics which are spread across Dubai.



Hamdan award now Dh20m

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Minister of Finance & Industry and the Patron of the Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Medical Sciences has raised the budget for the 2007-2008 awards to Dhs 20 million (US$5.4m). The closing date for nominations for the 2008 (Fifth) Awards is 30 November 2007.

Nominations are being sought in the following categories: stem cell research; malignancies; pharmacogenomics; organ & tissue transplantation. The winners will be announced in the third quarter, 2008.

For more information visit: www.hmaward.org.ae



Emaar hospital for Abu Dhabi

Amanah Capital, the Dubaibased asset Management Company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Emaar Healthcare Group (EHG), a subsidiary of Emaar Properties, a Dubaibased property developer, to develop specialist healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

EHG will create integrated healthcare clusters that cover the entire spectrum of medical needs, with special emphasis on women and children. A premium secondary care hospital will comprise gynaecology and obstetrics, neonatology, paediatric medicine and surgery, and family medicine, according to Emaar.



Diabetes centres for Saudi

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health will set up new diabetic centres across the kingdom next year at a cost of SR42 million (about US$11.2 million), according to a report in Arab News.

Mansoor Al-Hawasi, Deputy Minister of Health for Executive Affairs, was quoted as saying the diabetic centres are aimed at providing health services in all villages and towns in the kingdom and that the ministry is continuing to develop health services in rural areas.

“We aim to provide total health care to all citizens and expatriates in our country,” he said. The diabetic centres will be built at King Khaled Hospital in Hafr Al-Batin, King Abdullah Hospital in Bisha, King Khaled Hospital in Najran, King Fahd Hospital in Baha, King Faisal Hospital in Qurayat, Prince Abdul Rahman Al-Sudairi Hospital in Jouf, Arar Central Hospital as well as Qunfuda Central Hospital.



Boston Uni dental for DHCC

Two world renowned Boston University dental institutions are to set up at Dubai Healthcare City. They will be called the Boston University Institute for Dental Research and Education Dubai and the Boston University Dental Health Centre Dubai.

The institute will focus on furthering dental research in the region and on training graduate dentists in a wide range of specialties. The training programmes will match those at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine. The Dental Health Centre in Dubai will provide comprehensive, preventionoriented dental services.

While the Dental Health Center is scheduled to open early in 2008, the first trainees will enter the Institute in July 2008. Graduate training programmes will be offered in most of the recognised dental specialties.



Polio campaign

IRIN reports (7 August) that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan – in collaboration with their partners at UNICEF and the WHO – have launched parallel campaigns aimed at vaccinating more than 40 million children in both countries against polio.

Melissa Corkum, a spokeswoman for UNICEF's polio eradication programme in Islamabad said: “Given the high cross border movements between the two countries, it is critical that the campaigns are synchronised.”



Bedouin petition

IRIN reports that a new legal petition to Israel’s High Court demands the state connect 11 primary healthcare clinics in the unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev desert to the main power grid in order to provide better health services.

The clinics, which were established as a result of previous petitions, use generators, but only during opening hours. This means that several medications and vaccines which require refrigeration cannot be kept at the clinics. Their attorney, Sonia Boulos, said: “This violates the right to health and equality to which residents of these villages in the Negev are entitled.”

The villages, with an estimated 80,000 residents, are not recognised by the Israeli Government who says their presence on the land is “illegal”. Meanwhile, inside some of the 11 clinics there are other problems. Although the clinics serve only the Arabspeaking Bedouin population, nearly all the signs are in Hebrew, and in at least one clinic the receptionist was an Israeli who does not speak Arabic, according to IRIN.

“Most of the women in the unrecognised villages speak very limited Hebrew and read none at all,” said one observer, wondering why the state did not hang up signs in Arabic, as it did in other places in the country. Israel’s Ministry of Health has admitted that vaccines requiring refrigeration are not kept in the 11 clinics.

It said: “A petition to the High Court was filed on this matter and the Ministry of Health's response to these questions will be answered within the framework of the response to the petition to the High Court.”



UK consultants for Kuwait

HCA, one of London’s leading independent healthcare providers, has signed a deal with the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health to provide all the UK consultants for the Ministry of Health Visiting Doctor Programme.

HCA has more than 3,000 consultants from London’s leading teaching hospitals who have practicing privileges in six central London Hospitals. Most Gulf countries – including Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE – have visiting doctor programmes. Elizabeth Boultbee, head of International Business for HCA, said the programmes benefit both communities.

“Apart from helping the host country to cope with the increasing health demands of their local population, UK doctors and consultants were helping to train local doctors,” she said.



Blade-free corneal surgery

Dubai’s International Modern Hospital has successfully completed an Intralase Enabled Keratoplasty (IEK) procedure, one of the newest techniques in ophthalmology and believed to be a first for the Middle East region.

According to the hospital, IEK marks a turning point in the field of ophthalmology as it replaces the old practice of using a manual trephine corneal cutter. IEK, using an Intralase femtosecond laser, is the first blade-free laser approach used to incise corneal tissue.

The laser accuracy of IEK enables the surgeon to create precisely shaped incisions that join the cornea and the transplanted tissue together like puzzle pieces. This precision improves the transplant experience by requiring fewer sutures, providing a more stable graft, and enabling faster healing time and better visual recovery.

In a statement the hospital said they were proud to bring this technology to the region.



Mobile clinics for UAE

Gulf News reports that the UAE MoH is set to introduce mobile clinics to service rural and isolated communities by next year, part of a redesign for the primary healthcare centre department.

The mobile clinics will provide greater access to primary healthcare for small pockets of the population unable to access hospitals and clinics. Dr Mariam Mattar, assistant undersecretary of public health and primary healthcare, told the newspaper: “We have redesigned the service locations and we will have five or six mobile clinics going to small areas, where there is no need to open a fully-equipped, fully-staffed clinic.”

The mobile clinics are part of a comprehensive new health strategy for the ministry, which also requires the opening of new primary healthcare centres, closing of a few and relocation of others. Dr Mattar said accessibility issues for many communities would be solved under the redesign of primary healthcare services.

“For example, if the village is 50 kilometres away from emergency services, we will make sure we have emergency services provided and, for mountainous areas, make sure that the helicopter service is available.”



Dialysis machines for Saudi

Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank will provide 65 dialysis machines to 32 government hospitals in 26 Saudi cities at a total cost of more than SR5 million (about US$1.33 million) as part of its social service, Arab News reports.

The bank has signed an agreement with Prince Fahd ibn Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients to implement the plan. According to the report the number of kidney patients in the Kingdom increases at the rate of nine percent annually, with more than 90,000 kidney patients across the kingdom.

“The growing number of kidney patients demands the establishment of more dialysis centres with the private sector’s support,” the prince said was quoted as saying. The charity provides three to four dialysis sessions weekly to kidney patients at hospitals and specialised centres.

                                                                                                   
                                                          
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