Interview: Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari

With the launch of the National Health Strategy (NHS) for 2017-22, what are your main future priorities for the health sector?

HANAN MOHAMED AL KUWARI: There are three main areas we will be focusing on over the next few years: creating the conditions to help people lead healthier lifestyles, ensuring that we continue with the expansion of health facilities and delivering policies that will help to further raise the quality, safety and efficiency of the care we provide. There is a lot we can do to support healthier lifestyles – whether this means working with schools to create better awareness of healthy eating and exercise, delivering more programmes to help people quit smoking, supporting young people to have better oral health or working with other government ministries to reduce instances of asthma by improving air quality.

This is important work. Today one in six of the adult population has diabetes, which can have a great impact on their quality of life. It costs our health system QR1.8bn ($494.3m) to treat diabetes and its complications. Without change the number of people with diabetes will potentially double over the next 40 years – impacting more people and their families and putting more pressure on the health system. However, this is not inevitable. By creating public health programmes that encourage young people to live healthier lifestyles we can help more people avoid diabetes.

Will the programme to deliver new hospitals in Qatar – which has been a central part of health policy in recent years – continue?

AL KUWARI: One of our priorities is to accelerate the programme of opening new health care facilities in Qatar. Since 2015 we have significantly expanded operating theatres at Hamad General Hospital and opened the new Communicable Disease Centre, the expanded Bone and Joint Centre, the Enaya Continuing Care Centre in Muaither and six new health centres. Meanwhile, Sidra, the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, Women’s Wellness and Research Centre, and Ambulatory Care Centre have all begun to see their first patients. In late 2017 and early 2018 we will see Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City fully open alongside four new health centres, three new modern hospitals for male labourers, the new Hamad General Trauma and Emergency Department, and the Sidra inpatient facilities. All of these will come on-line at the same time that four new private hospitals are expected to open their doors.

However, it is not just about the buildings; we have also attracted record-breaking numbers of staff to come work in our facilities, and Hamad Medical Corporation is the first health care system in the world to have all of its hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International under the Academic Medical Centre programme. Our new hospitals will help us get closer to international best practices in terms of beds per person and help us improve access to those services.

What plans does the ministry have to help increase quality across the health care system?

AL KUWARI: Obviously the new NHS 2017-22 will set a clear policy agenda for the next five years, but all of the activity that the ministry undertakes needs to be linked to ensure we are making the most effective use of our resources and ensuring that all parts of the health system are working together to continuously improve patient care. Whether it is our accreditation and licensing programme, which helps set the standards that health care providers need to meet, or our e-health strategy, which is linking all public providers together to share patient information – every programme is designed to improve quality of care and drive a better patient experience. We will also continue to develop initiatives that focus on delivering quality improvements, including the Academic Health System and the Hamad Healthcare Quality Institute. These key initiatives are playing an important role in joining together local stakeholders and enabling the integration of health systems.