The ministry of health announced a strategic reform plan for the healthcare sector. The ministry aims, over the next three years, to unify healthcare policies across the country and will seek to offer more specialised treatment.
The 35 initiatives include creating an electronic network linking hospitals and health centres, and developing a medical archiving system and national health database in addition to upgrading the Emirates' healthcare facilities.
Detailing the objectives of the plan, Minister for Health Hamid Al Qatami said, "The strategy reflects the ministry's determination in upgrading services. The ministry will also focus on enhancing its regulatory role and will strive to raise the level of its high calibre scientific, technical and administrative personnel."
The ministry will no longer play a dual role as the Emirates Health Authority will provide medical services while the ministry of health will remain the sector's regulator.
In an effort to accommodate the rapid growth in demand for healthcare services in the Northern Emirates, the ministry has announced significant upgrades in the sector, including plans to spend over Dh2bn ($545m) in new medical facilities.
"The ministry's ultimate objective is to lay the foundation for sustainable development within the healthcare sector, which follows international best practices," said Al Qatami. Rapid population expansion, changing social demographics and a high prevalence of diseases such as diabetes have all contributed to the need for a large capital injection into healthcare facilities.
In Sharjah, the ministry announced the construction of a 200-bed, $95m, obstetrics and gynaecology hospital, five primary health clinics and a $7.6m dental clinic in Khorfakkan. The ministry stated $5.5m has been earmarked for building an open heart surgery centre in the emirate, which is claimed to be the first of its kind in the emirates.
In Ajman, a $41m expansion project at the Sheikh Khalifa Hospital will add a gynaecology ward, with work scheduled for completion by end of 2008. By next year, the ministry will launch a $13.6m hospital at Massfout, a $5.5m dental clinic, an $8.2m preventive medicine clinic and a $2.7m primary health centre.
The ministry said $163.4m had been earmarked for the construction of the Ras al-Khaimah Specialists Hospital, with work planned to start early next year. Plans for the emirate also include $27.3m for the renovation of the hospital in Sham, $2.7m for a health centre and $6.8m for a nursing institute. A primary healthcare centre will open next month in Gulfar.
Looking to the East in Umm al-Quwain, the ministry announced that contractors would be invited to submit offers in September for building a 200-bed hospital for an estimated cost of almost $109m. Centres for preventive medicine, school, dental and primary health are also in progress.
In Fujairah, Al Qatami said $6.8m would be spent on building a nursing school and $16.4m to add a maternity and childcare ward at Fujairah hospital. The $19m Massafi hospital is anticipated to be completed during 2007.
The new health authority has been tasked with introducing a training programme for doctors, which will include rotational training at the newly created referral centres.
"Hospitals will be remodified under the EHA," said Dr Miriam Mohd Matar, assistant undersecretary for public health and primary healthcare at the ministry of health.
"For example, Ajman will become our referral centre for orthopaedic and trauma diseases, and Sharjah, will have a referral centre for antenatal care and gynaecology. Staff from each centre will rotate to gain training in each of these specific areas."