How would you summarize 2018 at Al Qassimi Hospital in terms of business prospects and healthcare output?
It was certainly quite a challenging situation in 2018, particularly due to population growth. Al Qassimi Hospital also received Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation in December 2018 after two years of preparations. Our building is not new—it was constructed in 1983—so getting accreditation with all the infrastructural requirements was a challenge. We had to upgrade everything from the power system to the wards, other facilities, and manpower. We added extra staff, new services and equipment, and more intensive care beds. We also had the new 180-bed mother and children hospital open next door, which covers Al Qassimi Hospital's obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics. This kind of separation added the challenge for Al Qassimi Hospital of developing new services to cover the gap left by the other specialties. We intend to start a couple of expansion plans in 2019 with a cardiac center, a new stroke clinic, and a plastic surgery unit, as there is a great deal of demand.
The UAE and Sharjah have been identified as new locations for tourism healthcare. What kind of opportunities does this open up for Al Qassimi Hospital and the country?
As a healthcare provider, we are dependent on the volumes we get. As a physician, if you do not have the volume you cannot provide a service. So the more tourism that comes to the country, the more work and the greater the chance you have to develop new services. The spectrum of healthcare services you provide becomes wider, and your desire to improve your performance also increases with competition, which is quite tough now, especially in the private healthcare sector.
What sets Al Qassimi Hospital apart from the competition, and how would you evaluate the sector itself?
Al Qassimi Hospital is unique in what it is doing here. As a Ministry of Health (MOH) hospital, we are not focused on financial ends alone, but are also here to help people who cannot afford private healthcare. We provide innovative technologies that may not be a priority in the private sector. We try to develop services that can be a cost burden initially, but certainly offer higher quality. What we do here is a kind of merger of a socioeconomic role plus innovation and research that the private sector is often not interested in conducting. We have really been involved in encouraging our staff to do more research because we have a lack of adequate information about our population's health and frequency of disease. That said, the government has put a lot of measures in place to come up with solutions to combat these kinds of endemic diseases.
What international participation and knowledge exchanges does Al Qassimi Hospital have?
We have had a doctors' visiting program for many years that includes inviting doctors here and sending doctors abroad for training. It is important to exchange knowledge at even the team level; not only individuals are requested to come over and teach or perform surgery. An entire Belorussian team recently visited for pediatric-cardiac surgery, and we are expecting another team from Belarus in June 2019. These pioneering visits enrich our staff's knowledge. In May 2019, we had one of the top cardiologists visit, and we currently have two visiting doctors in orthopedics. This has also been an economic success. You can do a simple calculation and see how much more it would cost to send these patients abroad compared to treating them here.
Are you also inviting foreign doctors to stay and work for longer periods?
This is something we are in the process of doing. We have made some agreements and are trying to organize this with a Japanese group and certain American groups for a program in which doctors can come here for six months or a year. It is not easy for people to come and work here, but there is a plan to facilitate this in the future.