TBY talks to Dr. Dia Kamel Hassan, President & CEO of Bellevue Medical Centre (BMC), on its affiliations, international accreditation, and challenges in the sector.

Dr. Dia Kamel Hassan
Dr. Dia Kamel Hassan, who now heads Bellevue Medical Center as its President & CEO, brings rich, deep, and successful skills following 30 years of experience in the healthcare management field. An American University of Beirut and Walden University graduate, her successful career path included a journey between Lebanon and the UAE in some of those countries’ biggest medical centers including Al Wasl Hospital and the International Modern Hospital. She was also a consultant to the Dubai Health Authority while developing curricula for three bachelor degree programs for the Canadian University of Dubai. She is also currently a consultant for the Joint Commission International for Healthcare Accreditation.

Bellevue Medical Centre (BMC) became a university hospital affiliated to Université Saint-Joseph in July 2010. How have things changed since?

The effects on patient safety have been very high because the presence of both residents and interns helps in assuring that our patients are in good hands all the time. There are cases in which, for instance, the attending physician is not available and, in a normal hospital, the doctor would just come, attend the patient, and leave. Here, on the other hand, at a university hospital like ours, medical students, usually in the last few years of their specialty, can tend to the patients. The second enrichment that comes from being a university hospital is the positive impact on research, which is essential in the medical sector. The teaching environment and the research keep the staff, and their medical skills, up to date and well polished.

You also received Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. What is the significance of this?

This accreditation was established in the 1950s in the US. By that time, it was decided that standards were required in order to assess patient care. After a period of development, it came to represent the main accreditation body for healthcare in the US, with there now being more than 20,000 accredited hospitals. It is dedicated solely to healthcare services and has become desirable abroad. However, some standards are only applicable in the US; for example, with regard to insurance, the Joint Commission formed a group to create the JCI, taking the standards of the US and applying them to the rest of the world, by taking into account cultural and legal differences, observing more than 2,000 measurable elements inside hospitals. This is how JCI came to be and because of our nature, being a hospital that was built on international standards, especially with regard to safety and hospital design, it became important to ask the JCI to review BMC. Our hospital is recognized as having the best hospital design. For example, there are elements that people would not even normally notice, such as laminar flows in the operating rooms, which are quite expensive, but the hospital has acquired them since they are crucial for avoiding infections.

What medical treatments do you specialize in?

Ours is a general hospital, which means that we treat a wide range of medical conditions. At the moment, we do not do renal dialysis or open-heart surgery. We have high-quality cosmetic surgery services, and we are proud of our excellent orthopedic department, which includes a large physiotherapy department with hydrotherapy. Our well sought after maternity unit is now developing into a center of excellence, which will be completed in 2014. In addition to this, we have a large psychiatric unit designed according to international standards, which is something that not many hospitals in the Middle East are equipped with. Special efforts have been made to ensure the safety of psychiatric patients, including design methods that reduce the possibility of suicide by those whose conditions need particular assistance. Moreover, we have just inaugurated the breast cancer center, where different doctors and services provided in one setting treat the patient with a holistic approach.

What balance do you have between local and foreign patients?

Our hospital has dedicated an international patient office to serving international patients; however, the majority of our patients remain Lebanese. The political turbulence in the country during the last few months did not hugely affect our growth, which was at 43% previously, although it was slightly higher at 56% in 2012.

What would you say are the challenges in the sector?

The number one challenge is related to the emigration of qualified nurses from the country, which has created a huge demand. Another main issue for us is the unstable political situation in the country, which causes challenges related to attracting patients from overseas. In BMC, despite our high operational cost due to the excellent-quality facility, the latest medical equipment, high nurse to patient ratio, and professional staff of a high caliber, our prices are very competitive in the market and affordable for international as well as national patients.