Bahrain: Improving health

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Bahrain is rolling out a series of new health care facilities, with both the state and the private sector looking to improve existing medical services and expand treatment options.

On February 6, Bahrain opened it latest health facility, the 312-bed King Hamad University Hospital (KHUH). Though affiliated with the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), the hospital – located in Busaiteen – serves the general public and was also designed to take the overflow from the Kingdom’s other health centres. Additionally, the KHUH will train the next generation of Bahraini medical professionals.

According to Sheikh Muhammed Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, the minister of state for defence affairs, up to 200,000 patients a year can be treated by the various clinics and departments within the hospital.

“Between 80,000 and 100,000 outpatients, another 15,000-20,000 in-patients and 80,000 accident and emergency patients can be accommodated every year,” he said following the KHUH’s formal opening. “In addition, the hospital will be a world-class training facility, as it is a teaching hospital for the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.”

The new hospital offers a wide range of services, including dermatology, general surgery, gynaecology, an accident and emergency clinic, maternity and orthopaedics. While providing normal day-to-day treatment, the KHUH is also envisioned as taking health care in the Kingdom a step above its present level, ultimately being able to conduct advanced procedures such as organ transplants.

Even as the KHUH was being opened, plans were unveiled for its expansion, with the hospital’s CEO, Shaikh Salman Bin Ateytalla Al Khalifa, announcing that a dedicated 120-bed oncology centre and a medical research unit would both be added to the existing facilities.

“These two new facilities will greatly enhance services being provided to the people of Bahrain,” he said during the ceremony to mark the launch of the hospital. “We are now looking forward to opening other departments.”

Having just opened one hospital, officials announced that another is to be built between Askar and Jow. Sheikh Abdulla Bin Rashid Al Khalifa, the governor of the southern area of Bahrain, told the media on February 6 that the proposal for the new facility had been approved and that land had been set aside for the hospital. So far, details of the hospital’s size, what services it will provide and the cost of the project have yet to be made public. When completed, the new facility will be the Kingdom’s third general hospital.

Not to be outdone, Bahrain’s first hospital – the Salmaniya Medical Complex – is also set to be given an upgrade, with a new intensive care unit (ICU) to be established. According to Ameen Al Saati, the assistant under-secretary for hospital affairs at the Ministry of Health, the unit will initially have 15 beds, and later expand to 22 and then 33 beds. The renovations and upgrades are expected to cost approximately $7.9m.

The ICU will be just the first in a series of new units planned for the Salmaniya Medical Complex, including outpatient departments, ICUs for new-borns, a critical-case children’s ward and a $6.7m blood disease centre that will specialise in providing treatment to sufferers of sickle cell anaemia.

The private sector is also being offered the opportunity to step up health care investments. The Kingdom plans to establish a specific medical district in Buhair near Isa Town, which was recently approved by the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry. The health care centre, which will contain specialist hospitals and clinics, as well as support facilities such as hotels catering to medical tourism, will also have other businesses that are not directly health-related but that will help support the activities of the district, said Mohammed Hassan, the director-general of the municipality, when speaking with the Trade Arabia news service in late January.

“Originally, I sought to have Buhair turned into a designated area for private medical services, but councillors had reservations that the strip should not be dominated by hospitals and clinics,” he said. “As decided by the minister, the area will be opened for medical facilities but investors will be allowed to open businesses and services in support of hospitals and clinics that open there.”

If the project gets off the ground as planned, the area could well become a centre for treatment but also for much of the ancillary activities needed to underpin the health care sector, from medical supplies and equipment sales to administrative services and logistics. This would offer broad-based investment opportunities for the private sector and allow non-state entities to take advantage of Kingdom’s health tourism potential.

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