Interview: Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari
What is being done to ensure that health care infrastructure keeps pace with population growth?
HANAN MOHAMED AL KUWARI: The demand for health care services has risen in recent decades due to Qatar’s increasing population, which has been driven by growth and development. Between 2016 and 2018 outpatient visits at HMC and clinic visits to health centres run by Primary Health Care Corporation both increased by 17%, while the number of ambulance calls, emergency visits and births all rose as well. To meet this growing demand, we have dramatically expanded capacity across the national health system. Since 2016 we have opened seven new hospitals in the public sector, increasing the number of public-sector hospital beds by around 40%.
Additionally, we have prioritised the growth and development of primary care services and opened nine new health centres across the country. We have worked hard to strengthen the private health sector, and a concerted effort has been made to increase the number of private facilities. Between 2016 and 2018, 95 general health centres, 89 company clinics, four diagnostic and treatment centres, and three private hospitals were opened.
Qatar was ranked fifth in the world for health by the UK-based Legatum Institute: how can it ensure it maintains this position going forwards?
AL KUWARI: This placing, up from 13th in 2018, has been driven by the fact that Qatar has the highest life expectancy in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and ranks in the top 25 globally for health care access and quality. Services including ambulance, cardiology and stroke care now exceed national and international benchmarks for quality of care. Following the announcement of the Legatum ranking, HMC achieved its largest-ever hospital accreditation, with 13 of its facilities accredited by US-based Joint Commission International. HMC is also the only hospital system outside the US to have achieved corporate Academic Medical Centre accreditation for all its hospitals simultaneously. Guided by the National Health Strategy 2018-22, we are working to further advance the quality of care we provide by focusing on seven priority population groups, including children, mothers, older people and those with special needs.
In what ways can investment in human capital development complement the recent growth of health care infrastructure?
AL KUWARI: While it is vital that we have the physical capacity within the sector to offer quality care services to the growing population, we believe that the people delivering these services are our most valuable asset. More facilities and greater activity means that we have needed to expand and strengthen our workforce across the system. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of doctors increased by 11% in acute care and 27% in primary care, while the number of nurses increased by 12% in acute care and 4% in primary care. HMC’s Nursing and Midwifery Strategy 2018-20 is building on the recent growth of its nursing and midwifery workforce and aims to recruit, retain and develop staff with the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude.
We are also committed to strengthening the role of Qatari nationals within the health sector’s workforce. In early 2019, 46 fourth-year medical students from Qatar University College of Medicine (QU-CMED) completed a 14-week clinical rotation at Al Khor and Al Wakra Hospitals. The group, which included 19 Qatari nationals, were the inaugural general medicine class from this new school of medicine established by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2014. QU-CMED is the second medical school to be established in Qatar, alongside Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, which was opened in 2001.
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