Healthcare UAE: Sheikh Khalifa Medical City

May 10, 2018 in Infrastructure

A unique new medical centre has been built in Abu Dhabi.

The Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) is comprised of three hospitals under one roof. Spanning 300,000-square metres, SKMC is a 838-bed medical complex which includes a General Hospital, a Trauma Centre, and a tertiary Women’s and Pediatric Hospital. There is a range of departments, with outpatient clinics, accident and emergency, radiology and operating theaters to name just a few.

The medical city has been designed for SEHA, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company. Now complete, it is the largest hospital in the UAE. Jeff Staples, former CEO of SKMC spoke to The Prospect Group on this. He said:

“SKMC is really critical to the healthcare provided in Abu Dhabi. It’s the largest hospital in the country, it’s the major tour share referral centre in the country, [and] we have the only emergency department in Abu Dhabi. We are opening a new paediatric emergency department, a new adult emergency department, and we are really the only the specialty centre in all of Abu Dhabi.”

Acting CEO Aref Ali Al Shehhi elaborated on specific details of the medical campus. He said:

“We have more than 12 subspecialties that we call unique services, which are only available at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City; therefore, we have a wide scope of services.”

“We offer different types of surgery from cardiac surgeries to small procedures. We are a unique center for adult and pediatric cardiac surgery, and in 2015 the numbers of adult and pediatric cardiac surgeries was around 700, which is considered a large number.”

“We are the only pediatric cardiac surgery program in the UAE. We are the center of excellence for pediatrics and cardiology, meaning we are capable of dealing with all types of cases related to pediatrics and cardiology ranging from mild to complex ones with positive outcomes.”

“We also have other types of surgery like orthopedic surgeries, and we are having a big number or orthopedic surgeries done here from arthroplasty to other fracture surgeries and minor surgeries as well as pediatric spinal surgeries.”

Other services/departments include: the ophthalmology division, emergency department, physical medicine and rehabilitation centre, gastroenterology and pediatric critical care.

With such a sizeable and varied hospital to run, SKMC can not work alone; SEHA contracted the Cleveland Clinic to help, and now, the two clinics co-run SKMC together. The former CEO said:

“One of the main reasons that SEHA has contracted out with Cleveland clinic is to really bring the healthcare standards in Abu Dhabi up to international levels- and we’re making very very good progress on this as evidenced by our recent JCR certification. The JCR inspectors said that we scored higher than any other hospital internationally than any other hospital they had ever inspected.”

As well as achieving a world-class JCR certification, SKMC will be the first set of hospitals in the UAE to achieve an Estidama rating of 2 Pearls, the equivalent of LEED Gold certification. This was recognised on account of the state of the art, high-efficiency, next generation building systems in the centre, alongside basic regional concepts to support the appearance and upkeep of the natural environment.

Image matters to the SKMC. Envisioned as a “city within a city”, the overall design defies the typical model of a medical center, providing a campus-like environment, full of manicured public spaces, healing gardens, and vibrant community facilities. Various outlets combine to create a “town centre” within the medical city. The town centre is made of lobbies, cafes, retail, prayer rooms and education spaces. It is a lively place of exchange, fostering an excellent sense of community and welcome respite from the more medically intense areas of the SKMC.

Above the town centre, there is a shaded rooftop garden, known as The Commons. The Commons will offer generous outdoor space for relaxation and quiet contemplation.

It is clear that the hospital complex has been created to look inviting, and the genius conception of space gives it its distinctive aesthetic. Specifically, SKMC takes a “patients are guests” approach to interior design. The interior spaces use custom textiles and wallcoverings to reinforce and enhance the mood of each hospital. Lobbies and other public spaces have been designed to convey a sense of serenity through spaciousness, natural materials and diffused natural light. Terraces and courtyards have also been added to soften the boundaries of inside and out. However, the revolutionary design has not comprised the hospital’s purposes: it is still a practical institute and it strives for medical excellence. For Jeff Staples, the new build is typical of a new era, and a new medical institution in the UAE. He said:

“Like everything else in the UAE, healthcare is changing and evolving very rapidly so it’s really very difficult to predict where healthcare will be in 3 years, 5 years and 10 years, although I know that the government has a very clear vision in where they’re trying to take it”.

Aref Shehhi agrees that healthcare is evolving rapidly. He said:

“The healthcare sector is full of challenges, and if you do not have clear directions and priorities you will be lost.”

In addition, the Acting CEO suggested what sort of challenges these might be. He said:

“One of the greatest challenges we are facing is securing talented staff, which is a challenge everywhere—it is not just attracting good staff, but retaining them. There is always a shortage and there is always a need to have a clear strategy in this area. Our healthcare system has become so complex that it not only requires physicians who do surgery, but also a lot of support staff.”

According to Mr Shehhi: “technology is another aspect, and it is developing quickly. If you do not have a clear strategy on what and where to invest in technology, you will [also] be lost…. Any technology that can help make you more efficient and effective is positive.”

A further challenge, and change, comes from culture. The Acting CEO discussed the idea that conditions and diseases can be difficult to manage because they are evolving through culture. He said:

“One of the challenges that we are facing here in the Middle East is lifestyle, because people’s lifestyles are starting to change; therefore, we started being faced with many diseases and a number of conditions and diseases started to grow here because of these lifestyles. Diabetes and heart problems are examples and they are all linked to the new lifestyles that people are moving toward; they are changing the way they eat, the way they work, and all this will create a burden on the healthcare sector. If we do not include preventative education and explain what is covered with the healthcare in the strategy, then definitely in the future we will pay a lot and the costs will be high.”

In light of this, the SKMC will always be ready to deliver the best possible care to those in need of it.