The inauguration of the Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital (SKSH) in February 2015 was a major step in the development of the Ras Al Khaimah health sector. Offering much-needed tertiary care, the hospital’s facilities are expected to have a major impact on the provision of health services, serving patients from the UAE’s Northern Emirates who would otherwise have to travel for treatment.
Although the hospital’s full opening has been delayed by human resource challenges, the staff shortfall also offers considerable opportunities to the RAK Medical and Health Science University (RAKMHSU), and bodes well for longer-term development of the emirate’s overall health ecosystem.
RAK, like the rest of the UAE, has witnessed rapid population growth and rising health care demand in recent years, with existing pressure exacerbated by the fact that until recently, options for referral tertiary care were extremely limited. As a result, patients were often obliged to fly abroad or drive to Dubai or Abu Dhabi to seek medical care, an inconvenient and costly process that also limited patients’ access to follow-up care.
Financed by a grant from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, the Dh1bn ($272.2m) SKSH project broke ground in May 2009, with the government investing $163.7m for the construction of a 700,000-sq-ft facility on the outskirts of the city. It is the second health care facility to be established under the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, following the construction of the Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital in the neighbouring emirate of Umm Al Quwain, which was completed in 2013.
The Ministry of Public Works awarded the design and build contract to a joint venture between Perkins Eastman and Al Bayaty Architects and Engineering. In August 2014, authorities announced that the hospital would be operated and managed by South Korea’s Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH), beating out Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Stanford University Medical College in California, and London’s King’s College Hospital. SNUH is set to provide 200 of 1400 staff at SKSH. Construction was completed in March 2014 and services rolled out later that year.
The six-storey hospital will focus on cancer and cardiovascular care, with facilities including comprehensive oncology and cardiology departments, diagnostics, radiology, neuroscience, heart disease, burn units, laparoscopy, an intensive care unit for heart disease patients and an emergency department. The hospital will initially accommodate 248 beds, a number that is expected to rise to 400.
Although it operates as one of the largest specialty care centres in the Middle East, officials have stressed that the hospital will not compete with other institutions in delivering primary and secondary care, but will aim instead to reduce the need for local residents to travel abroad when seeking care.
“As we prepare the hospital, we will continue reducing the number of referral patients who travel to foreign countries for treatment, which is a significant value proposition for the UAE,” Myung-Whun Sung, CEO of SKSH, told OBG. “We are here to provide longterm support for the toughest cases.”
Human Resource Challenges
SNUH hopes to bring 100% of SKSH facilities online by 2017, provided staffing issues are addressed. “This is one of the major obstacles we have. It is difficult to find good medical personnel, especially young doctors, so education and training are very important,” Sung told OBG.
To help meet the shortfall, SNUH is delivering training to students at RAK MHSU, with SKSH expecting its first interns in September 2015. Combined with ongoing recruitment efforts on the part of SNUH, which has already brought over 190 staff and their families to the emirate, the hospital’s personnel shortage should narrow considerably in the medium term, paving the way for at-home specialty treatment in RAK.
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