As Dubai’s health care sector grows, the range of centres of excellence and specialist treatments available to patients is also expanding. Government-run hospitals are offering citizens treatments that might once have necessitated a lengthy visit to a hospital in Germany, the UK or the US. Meanwhile, hospital expansions and new-builds in the private sector increasingly focus on providing types of care that offer a unique selling point in a crowded and competitive market.
There is already a well-established public health system in the Dubai. Rashid Hospital, the first hospital under the jurisdiction of Dubai Health Authority (DHA), opened in 1973, followed by Dubai Hospital a decade later and the former Al Wasl Hospital in 1986 – later renamed Latifa Women and Children’s Hospital in 2012, for the late Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Hatta Hospital was inaugurated in December 2010 and afterwards expanded to offer services to 40,000 people in 14 regions across the UAE and Oman. Both Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai, and his wife Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, who chairs Dubai Healthcare City Authority, have taken a close interest in health care provision in the emirate. In 2008 Sheikh Mohammed ordered the construction of Al Jalila Specialist Children’s Hospital (AJSCH) in celebration of his daughter Sheikha Jalila bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum turning one year old. The facility’s opening in November 2016 marked a change in health care provision for children in the emirate and gave administrators an opportunity to reshape the distribution of specialist care across the public sector.
The government’s strategy is to make AJSCH the centralised care facility for children – with the exception of trauma patients. In 2017 all DHA hospitals relocated their paediatric treatment centres to the new hospital, which shares the same campus as Latifa Hospital, allowing the integration of overlapping functions, such as neonatal care. The AJSCH has 200 beds and in line with the Dubai Health Strategy (2016-21) has specialist kidney, heart, and child and adolescent mental health and neuroscience centres, with a specialist blood disorder and cancer centre due to open in 2018. AJSCH has also formed partnerships and affiliations with leading specialist hospitals, including Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai and Alder Hey in the Park Children’s Hospital in the UK. The Alder Hey agreement will provide AJSCH’s administration with expertise in operating a children’s facility with specialist care centres, and Emirati children with certain medical conditions, such as neurological disorders, will be allowed to seek treatment at Alder Hey. The two hospitals will also cooperate on research and development and training programmes.
DHA data on children treated in Dubai’s hospitals in 2016 gives some indication of the significant role AJCSH can play. In 2016 over 25,500 children under 15 spent some time as inpatients in Dubai’s four DHA hospitals, 14,000 of whom were over one year old. In the private sector some 30,700 children aged one to 15 received treatment as inpatients, so did 28,000 babies up to 11 months old. Of the total number of children treated in DHA hospitals in that year, 6345 were classed as paediatric patients and 2049 had paediatric surgery.
In addition, many children under 15 received the kind of specialist care that will be offered at AJCSH, including 321 with diabetes; 297 receiving treatment at an endocrinology ward; 104 seeing a cardiologist; 121 undergoing neurosurgery; 846 with kidney complaints, which were treated in nephrology beds; 799 accessing ear, nose and throat specialties; and 587 children seeing oncologists for cancer treatment.
Centres Of Excellence
Including the soon-to-be-opened cancer and blood disorder centre, AJSCH will have six centres of excellence, 19 specialist clinics and 16 on-site services, including a Dubai’s first robotic pharmacy. Young patients will be treated in a more child-friendly environment, and medical staff will develop greater knowledge and understanding of sub-specialities in medicine. It is intended that these clusters of expertise will also create opportunities for research into conditions that may have a specific relevance to people in the UAE and the wider GCC region.
One example of a disease with significant prevalence in the Gulf is the congenital blood disorder thalassemia. In 2016, 1869 children under 15 were treated as inpatients in DHA haematology or thalassemia wards, of which 1036, or 55%, were Emirati children. Another paediatric speciality at AJSCH is nephrology.
AJSCH’s opening coincides with upgrades to existing facilities at other DHA hospitals. In January 2017 Dubai Hospital completed the expansion of its nephrology department to raise its daily capacity from 106 to 240 patients. In 2016 the renal dialysis department treated 33,000 people – a significant increase on demand from 2007 when 25,000 patients were treated there annually. The hospital has seen a 10-15% growth in the number of patients requiring kidney treatment per year. DHA data shows there were also 75 dialysis units at private hospitals in Dubai in 2016. In May 2017 DHA announced a further Dh290m ($78.9m) expansion plan for Dubai Hospital with an emphasis on providing more specialist care.
The first Dh100m ($27.2m) phase will see the construction of a six-storey building and a tripling of the number of specialist clinics currently operated by the hospital. The second phase of the development will see the construction of workshops, lecture theatres and additional parking capacity.
Private sector providers have also been making significant investments in the provision of new specialised care centres and the latest variants of existing technology. In 2017 a number of such facilities were opened at private hospitals and clinics. Thumbay Hospital Dubai unveiled its Ortho Spine Centre, the first phase of an expansion plan that will add 100 beds to the infirmary. In May 2017 the Neuro Spinal Hospital announced a new 120-bed facility in Dubai Science Park was due to open in 2018.
DHA data from 2016 shows 434 cancer patients accounted for 21.8% of all Emirati citizens sent abroad for treatment by the DHA – the largest group of overseas patients – indicating a gap in public care provision. DHA itself employs two consultant oncologists and eight oncology specialists at Dubai Hospital, where there are 18 designated beds. The oncology department saw more than 6000 outpatients and treated just over 3800 inpatients in 2016. Overall, public clinics saw 5677 expatriate patients and 607 nationals with malignant tumours.
In the private sector in 2016, hospital oncology departments employed six consultants and six specialists. Private hospitals performed 200 operations; saw 25,500 expatriate outpatients and 2600 Emiratis with malignant tumours; and provided 406 nationals and 2734 expatriates with inpatient care for cancer.
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