Right from the start: Expanded services are aimed at improving preventive care and increasing access

The health care sector in Ras Al Khaimah is going through rapid changes as the government invests in infrastructure to support expansion. A growing population has led to soaring demand for new facilities and services. At the same time, rapid economic growth combined with longer life expectancy and a change in lifestyles has shifted the burden of disease, leading to a greater need for targeted strategies and facilities to tackle these issues. As it works to expand services for its domestic population, the emirate is also hoping to tap into the growing medical tourism market to enhance the financial viability of its new health centres.

Existing Facilities

The Ministry of Health (MoH) manages the majority of medical facilities. It runs four hospitals with over 600 hospital beds and 18 primary health care centres, according to the RAK Department for Economic Development. The density of hospital beds in the UAE, calculated to be approximately 2.7 beds per 1000 people, is significantly lower than the average of 4.9 for OECD countries. However, the government is increasing investment in the sector to bridge this gap.

Existing facilities include Sheikh Saqr Hospital, which is the largest hospital in RAK and is slated for further expansion and upgrades. The MoH is investing Dh60m ($16.3m) to expand the emergency and casualty department. The move comes in response to a report by the Federal National Council’s Health, Labour and Social Affairs Committee, which noted that the hospital was not adequately equipped to cater to the growing population.

The upgrades will add to the hospital’s existing 278 beds, 57 doctors and 262 nurses. The facility provides a range of surgical specialties, such as urology, neurosurgery, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, and obstetrics and gynaecology. It also has paediatric and neonatal units.

New Offerings 

Adding to the emirate’s provision are a number of new facilities that have either opened recently or are currently under construction. The 126-bed Obaidallah Geriatric Hospital, for example, is dedicated to caring for the elderly. The hospital was constructed with private financing from a local businessman, but is managed and operated by the MoH. The Dh24m ($6.5m) hospital was built to reduce pressure on Shaam Hospital in northern RAK.

Shaam Hospital has 40 beds dedicated to geriatric care and is increasingly unable to meet demand in the region, resulting in long waiting times for patients seeking care. The new hospital is built on 27,432 sq metres of land and houses an intensive care unit (ICU) as well as state-of-the-art equipment. The hospital has separate wards for men and women.

The Dh100m ($27.2m) Abdullah Rashid Omran Hospital will add an additional 60-80 beds to the inventory in RAK. The facility will serve as a general hospital and include five operating theatres, outpatient clinics, an ICU, emergency rooms, a physiotherapy department, an x-ray room, a urology centre, a sterilisation unit and a medical lab.

The largest project backed by the public sector is the development of the Sheikh Khalifa Specialist Hospital, which is expected to open in late 2013. The Dh947m ($257.7m) hospital will make critical facilities available to patients in RAK and neighbouring northern emirates. The hospital will have a focus on several specialist areas, including non-communicable diseases, oncology, neurosurgery, vascular surgery and paediatric surgery.

The ground floor of the six-storey hospital will house emergency units and outpatient facilities. The first floor will have 48 beds and will include a cardiovascular disease unit, a burns unit and an ICU. The next four floors will have a total of 200 beds alongside a medical lab, electromechanical facilities and rooms for VIP patients. The hospital is being developed by Perkins Eastman and is being built to enable expansions that would add a total of 150 more beds to the facility to meet future demand for services.

Increasing Competition

The hospital will transform the medical landscape in RAK, especially for citizens, who will be able to access its services for free. The oncology department, in particular, is expected to be among the best in the region. However, it also poses a significant challenge to private hospitals, which need to remain profitable as they vie for clients in a highly competitive environment. According to RAK Hospital, a leading private facility, competition in the sector has created a trend whereby patients pay for consultations with doctors at a private facility but opt for treatment at public hospitals where services are cheaper or even free.

RAK Hospital is widely considered to be the best medical centre in the Northern Emirates. The hospital benchmarks its medical services against American standards through accreditation by the Joint Commission International. It is also an accredited member of the Swiss Leading Hospitals, which ensures the highest quality in customer care. In 2011 the hospital was named “Best Healing Environment” by Hospital Build Awards, a platform for investment in health care in the Middle East.

Increasing Services

Building on its previous success, RAK Hospital is investing in expanding its services in the emirate, complementing the government’s own efforts at building services. The hospital now has a Department of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, which offers a wide range of cardiovascular care. The unit provide tests and procedures to assist in accurate diagnosis and treatment planning, including a cardiac catheter lab and full electrophysiology set-up. The centre is hoping to focus on more than just treatment by offering lifestyle modification recommendations as well. India’s Fortis Escorts Heart Institute manages the department.

RAK Hospital is also setting up an eye-care facility in partnership with the LV Prasad Eye Institute from India. The centre, being built adjacent to the main hospital complex, will add to RAK’s capacity to diagnose and manage complex medical and surgical eye disease. The eye-care centre will be staffed with nurses and doctors from LV Prasad and will include a significant focus on preventive measures. Screening programmes to test for blindness susceptibility will help ensure patients tackle issues early on. Data collected from these measures will also provide valuable statistics that will help RAK Hospital deliver services and assist the government shape public health policies going forward.

A Growing Concern

Arabian Healthcare, which manages RAK Hospital, is adding to its portfolio with plans under way to build a chain of specialty centres across the UAE over the next two years. The group is setting up two facilities dedicated to the research and treatment of diabetes in RAK and Dubai. According to a report by US consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, the UAE has the second-highest diabetes rate in the world, “with an estimated 20% of residents and 25% of nationals suffering from the disease”. The report also states, “Nearly three-quarters of diabetes patients in the UAE do not have their diabetes under control, a challenge particularly pronounced among children and young adults. It is estimated that 40-50% of diabetics in the UAE are unaware they even have the disease.”

The new diabetes centres will seek to tackle these issues and will specialise in high-tech, evidencebased diabetes care, research, training and public health. Further to these efforts, and a first for the UAE, RAK Hospital is opening a health spa on its main campus to tackle obesity and promote weight loss within the emirate. The spa’s programme is based on the 7e concept, which is a patented protocol for weight loss that promises to take an integrated wellness approach. According to RAK Hospital, the spa will assist patients with non-surgical obesity reduction as well as post-surgical conditioning.

Medical Tourism

Improving its offering for medical tourists is another focus for the emirate, according to S Gurumadhva Rao, the vice-chancellor of RAK Medical and Health Science University. He told OBG, “Medical tourism is an important sector that will continue growing over the next few years in RAK, attracting people from other emirates as well as neighbouring countries.” Among the main reasons Rao cited for this growth are the emirate’s location, the investments being made in sector facilities, best practice health care policies and political stability.

In line with the emirate’s wider tourism strategy, the government is aiming to leverage its proximity to Dubai’s international airport as a factor that makes RAK an appealing destination for international patients (see Tourism chapter). The local government is actively supporting efforts to promote the emirate as a destination for medical tourism.

One way in which it is doing so is by providing logistical support to ensure patients are able to obtain visas and complete the other paperwork necessary to enter the country to make use of the growing range of high-quality medical facilities available.

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