Lebanon Report

Expanding to meet
growing demand


Middle East Health visited Lebanon earlier this year to look at developments at key hospitals in the country. We discovered that several of the leading hospitals have recently expanded or have expansion plans in place to cope with growing demand locally and from abroad. This is a good indicator of a robust healthcare industry with positive implications for the country and the wider region. Callan Emery reports.

Beirut is the great comeback city. Repeatedly battered by war it never fails to stagger back to its feet and lurch forward like an unstoppable battle-hardened soldier marching on undeterred by the hail of bullets deflected off his armour. Even with its battle scars, Beirut is beautiful in the Spring and in the cool, crisp, clear Mediterranean air there was a definite industriousness about the place, with people intensely going about their business as if in hasty preparation for a new, brighter tomorrow. A Lebanese journalist friend of mine who lives in the city told me this is what it is like all the time – “we are always preparing for a better tomorrow,” he said. “Ironically, knowing that it could at any moment all be smashed again,” he added.

It is an exceptionally beautiful, but a deceptively tough place to live. Right now there is a wonderful sense of optimism in the air. Residents who fled the war are returning, war-torn buildings are being renovated, trendy street cafes are reopening, Beirut appears to be returning to it former heady hay days.

This optimistic fervour is also reflected in its healthcare, with the city’s key hospitals all expanding to cope with growing demand, locally and internationally, for their services – a great indicator of the improving health of the country in general.

We visited a number of hospitals in Beirut and a few small medical device businesses. Without fail, all had a positive outlook and all had been experiencing year-on-year growth for the past several years.

We look at two key hospitals in the city – the American University of Beirut Medical Centre and Clemenceau Medical Center – to provide an example of the expansion that is taking place in the healthcare industry in Lebanon.

American University of Beirut Medical Centre

The American University of Beirut Medical Centre (AUBMC) is the bastion of healthcare in Lebanon, having provided healthcare to the Lebanese for over 100 years. The medical centre has served as a teaching hospital to the Faculty of Medicine at AUB, established in 1867. It has a long history of training generations of medical students and physicians; and its graduates can be found at leading institutions around the world.

Speaking to Middle East Health Dr Adnan Tahir, chief medical officer and hospital director, explained that the medical centre has been experiencing exceptional growth year-on-year and it now has to expand to cope with growing demand for its services.

As an example, he referred to their outpatient clinics “which have been experiencing significant growth year-on-year. We now have over 240,000 visits a year in the outpatient clinics”.

This not only requires additional staff, but also more space. To address this demand and in an effort to sustain its position as one of the region’s leading medical facilities, he said that they are now looking at a master plan to expand AUBMC with a new tower block.

2020 Vision

This follows the appointment in 2009 of Dr Mohamed H. Sayegh as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice President of Medical Affairs, under who’s leadership this initiative – 2020 Vision – is taking place.

Dr Sayegh has stepped into the role to lead this transformation from an exceptional background. He is one of the world’s leading figures in transplantation, renal medicine and transplantation immunobiology research. He is also currently a Visiting Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and is the Director of the Schuster Family Transplantation Research Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston.

“Our AUBMC 2020 Vision is to be the leading academic medical centre in Lebanon and the region by delivering excellence in patient-centred care, outstanding education and innovative research,” said Dr Sayegh, restating AUBMC’s long-held principles.

He explained that the main themes of the 2020 Vision are leadership, excellence, innovation, partnerships and expansion.

The initiative envisages the institution’s growth along six main paths, over the next nine years. These are:

- Development and implementation of the new AUBMC 2020 Medical Complex

- Recruitment of top-calibre, highly specialised and accomplished faculty

- Continued focus on patient needs and patient-centred care

- Innovation through the creation of clinical and research Centres of Excellence

Commitment to the academic and research mission of the Faculty of Medicine and AUBMC

- Establishment of strategic partnerships and collaborations locally, regionally and internationally

Centres of Excellence

The new AUBMC 2020 medical complex will see the medical centre grow from a 350-bed institution to a 600-bed medical facility. Key to this expansion, Dr Tahir explained, is the development of a number of new Centres of Excellence.

The expansion will also include new adult and paediatric hospitals as well as an expansion in the existing services and buildings.

Dr Tahir said the new complex will house new ORs and clinics as well as faculty officers. “It will be completely digital and will streamline operations from patient admissions to discharge.” The complex is expected to be complete by 2020, as the initiative’s namesake implies.

Medical Tourism

He said they want to expand their medical tourism service. “About 10% of admissions are foreign patients who’ve been attracted to the hospital through word-of-mouth and physician reputation. Currently most of their foreign patients come from Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

“We have set up an international patient services section – and we want to make it large,” he said.


Speaking to reporters earlier this year, Dr Sayegh said they had already begun their recruitment drive.

“During the last year and a half, we have added more than 40 new faculty members,” he said. “The majority are Lebanese people whom we brought back from leading institutions in the USA and some are from Europe.”

He explained that the renewed focus on patient-centred care and continually changing patient needs would require a redefining of service excellence and the necessity to constantly update systems based on the needs of patients.

“In September 2010 a Patient Affairs Team was established to ensure that the patients’ needs and satisfaction are at the core of what we do,” he said.

AUBMC will create new clinical and research Centres of Excellence to meet the medical needs of Lebanon and the region. These will include the creation of the Heart and Vascular Center and the Multiple Sclerosis Center which is set to open this year. The latter will be the first of its kind in the region and will address the needs of education and access to information, given the increasing incidence of Multiple Sclerosis in the Middle East.

AUBMC is currently home to three Centers of Excellence: The Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL), affiliated with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Abu-Haidar Neuroscience Institute; and the Naef K. Basile Cancer Institute (NKBCI), dedicated to the treatment and research of adult cancers.


As part of this initiative the AUBMC plans to strengthen and establish new collaborations with international, regional and national partners.

“We want to establish relationships instead of competition with other facilities in Beirut and the region, such as we have with Clemenceau Medical Center in Beirut,” Dr Tahir told Middle East Health. He added that collaboration will enable them to increase bed capacity among other mutually beneficial advantages.

Dr Sayegh said: “We want to be the institution of choice for partnership and collaboration when medical institutions in the region are looking for a partner in capacity building.”

AUBMC is able to offer partnering institutions a strong understanding of the issues surrounding healthcare delivery in Lebanon and the region, the benefit of speaking the local language, help with capacity building, and expertise and knowledge of performing state-of-the-art healthcare procedures, he explained.

The medical centre already has strong partnerships in place. Some of these include research collaboration and exchange with King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan; Clinical collaboration with Dr Haifa Mahmoud Eye Center in Bahrain. There is a long list of national partnerships, including Clemenceau Medical Center in Beirut. And internationally, it has partnerships with Cleveland Clinic Foundation Center for Continuing Education; George Washington University Medical Center, for medical student exchange; and Harvard Medical School for research; and University of Paris 7 for research and exchange, among many others.

Speaking to the press recently AUB Provost Ahmad Dallal said there are several plans for advancement in education at AUB’s Faculty of Medicine. These include: curriculum restructuring to ensure an education that leads to better delivery of health care for patients; the pursuit of additional international accreditations, particularly an aggressive plan to seek ACGME International (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) accreditation; efforts to increase the diversity of the faculty’s student base and accept more students from outside of Lebanon.

“We are also committed to the education, training and advancement of professionals outside of AUB through our Regional External Programs, and our newly established External Medical Affairs Office and Continuing Medical Education Office,” he said.

Provost Dallal explained that another main pillar of AUBMC’s 2020 Vision is to serve as a regional hub for research initiatives. “There is a huge gap in data specific to populations of the Middle East and North Africa. As a leading academic medical centre in the region, it is our goal to help address these needs in order to provide more targeted care specific to our patient population.” Clemenceau Medical Center

The outstanding Clemenceau Medical Center (CMC) was among a number of medical facilities Middle East Health visited in Beirut. It has already been through an expansion process and has further expansion plans underway.

About six years ago CMC moved to their new state-of-the-art, modern, hi-tech building. The new building has 110 beds, 5 ORs (one specific for open-heart surgery), a theatre in maternity, a theatre in ER and a cathlab. The theatres provide advanced laparoscopy and OR automation systems with live video teleconferencing from the theatre.

CMC is an upmarket facility and makes use of some of the latest technology available, including PET-CT, 64-slice CT, realtime MRI, digital mammography and ultrasound 3D and 4D. The facility has a completely filmless, digital radiology environment and a digital Hospital Information System.

The JCI-accredited hospital has been affiliated with Johns Hopkins for the past 10 years enabling continuous medical education of the highest order for their doctors as well as second-opinion teleconferencing capabilities for their patients.

Medical tourism

It has become a respected hospital for foreigners seeking a high standard of care with about 30% of their patients originating from outside Lebanon, Rania El Rayess, International Office, CMC, told Middle East Health – and this is growing between 2% and 5% a year. Most of their patients come from the region and this is their market focus although they have had a few patients from the Americas and Europe.

Confirming its status in the world of medical tourism, CMC placed in the top 10 in the world, and the was the only hospital in the Middle East to place in the MTQUA (Medical Travel Quality Alliance) ranking recently.

CMC offers a full concierge service for foreign patients and their accompanying family. Their International Patient Services team provides a complete package of services including air ambulance, airport pick-up and all travel and hotel arrangements for patients and family by multilingual staff. They provide assistance in choosing the right doctor, scheduling of all appointments, co-ordination of admissions process, getting a second opinion and follow-up remote consultations by teleconferencing, if needed.

The aim of the MTQUA is to advance patient safety and medical excellence in medical travel and health tourism by encouraging, developing and promoting professional care management for travelling patients. According to an Alliance spokesperson, it is committed to raising industry standards, putting quality first and partnering with hospitals and medical tourism support services in the care and management of the medical traveller.


In September last year CMC completed its outpatient clinic extension – a building adjacent to the medical centre. This building houses the eye clinic, ENT clinic, dentistry, medical & wellness facilities – essentially a medical spa managed by physicians – dermatology and plastic surgery, maternity specialty clinic and a paediatric clinic.

Further extensions are taking place to the current medical centre and are expected to be complete in 2014. This expansion will provide a bigger ER, a bigger OR. Oncology will expand and offer more specialties. It is estimated the expansion will enable them to accommodate 50 extra beds.

Already recognised as a premier multispecialty one-stop healthcare facility, the expansion is set to elevate this advanced centre to a leading position in the region.

Executive preventive health programme

CMC has developed the Premier Executive Health Check for busy foreign and
Lebanese executives who are stretched for time and who want a comprehensive
health check without interfering with their tight schedule.

“It is a 24-hour inpatient check-up,” explained Rania El Rayess, from the
International Patient Services department. “All cardiac tests, dental, eye and lab
tests are carried out in this time. The health check is tailored specifically to each
executive depending on their age and health status.”

She said it is designed as a preventive health measure which targets, reduces and
eliminates health risks through early detection.

“It is very popular,” she said. “Sometimes we have four or five patients coming in
one day for this check-up.”

For more information email: executive@cmc.com.lb

ate of upload: 18th Oct 2011


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