What new initiatives is Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) involved in?

STAPLES: SKMC is involved in many new initiatives. We are focusing on increasing patient satisfaction, increasing patient access, and increasing the quality of the medical care provided to our patients. The major focuses looking at the last quarter of 2011 are the new emergency departments. We are opening a new pediatric emergency department that will have more beds, better equipment, better staffing, better patient throughput and we expect a very good response from the community on that. Early in 2012, we are opening a new adult emergency room that will be about twice the size of our current emergency room. We are really the only emergency room in Abu Dhabi, so we are reaching out to the community to increase their access to our emergency services and are positioning ourselves to be a major trauma center.

What role will SKMC play in the development of the healthcare system of Abu Dhabi?

STAPLES: SKMC is really critical to the healthcare provided in Abu Dhabi. It is the largest hospital in the country and is the major tertiary referral center in the country. We have the only emergency department in Abu Dhabi. We are opening the new pediatric emergency unit and the new adult emergency unit and we are the only sub-specialty center in all of Abu Dhabi. We are part of the larger SEHA system, which encompasses other facilities such as Corniche Hospital, Mafraq Hospital, and Tawam in Al Ain. SEHA has its own initiatives to integrate the system through computer systems and electronic medical records integrating radiology and the laboratory. SKMC is really instrumental in the integration of those services. SKMC is positioned to be the major hospital for all of Abu Dhabi and it will continue to be so. We are continuously working on becoming a center of medical excellence for a variety of specialties.

What is the nature of your relationship to the Cleveland Clinic?

STAPLES: SKMC is a government hospital that is owned by SEHA. SEHA has contracted out the Cleveland Clinic to serve as the management for SKMC. So Cleveland Clinic is responsible for staffing the senior levels of the SKMC staff, pretty much all of the C-suite, and also responsible for ensuring the smooth operations of the hospital, the budgeting, the medical quality, and the medical staffing of the hospital. We are trying to take the Cleveland Clinic system and the Cleveland Clinic programs and replicate them here at SKMC as much as we possibly can. One of the main reasons SEHA has contracted out the Cleveland Clinic is to really bring the healthcare standards in Abu Dhabi up to international levels. We are making very good progress on this as evidenced by our recent JCI certification where the JCI inspectors said that we scored higher than any other hospital internationally that they have ever reviewed. We have also received College of American Pathologists (CAP) certification, which is internationally recognized for our laboratory here at SKMC and we are the only laboratories here in the Middle East that has CAP certification. With the partnership between SEHA and the Cleveland Clinic, we are very actively increasing the medical standards in Abu Dhabi and we are really achieving international recognition.

Where would you currently identify opportunity for inward investment in healthcare in the UAE?

STAPLES: Like everything else in the UAE, healthcare is changing and evolving very rapidly so it is really quite difficult to predict where the healthcare environment will be in three, five, or ten years, although, I know that the government has a very clear vision where they are trying to take it. In terms of the current services available, there are some gaps that I see and it would be very helpful if other companies or private investment could come in and fill. One of the issues that we struggle with at SKMC is our long-term patients. It is difficult for us to find a place to put them outside of SKMC, and that causes congestion in our beds and we do not get the patient throughput we would like to see in the hospital. One of the keys for Abu Dhabi, and maybe the UAE as a whole, is addressing this need for long-term care for patients in a sub-acute setting or a non-hospital setting. There is also significant opportunity in centralized radiological services, centralized laboratory services, physiotherapy, orthotics and prosthetics. From what I have seen as the CEO of SKMC, we would benefit and our patients would benefit from more focus on those services.

What are the main challenges in running a medical institution in the UAE today?

STAPLES: Running a healthcare facility really in any part of the world is extremely challenging. Healthcare institutions and hospitals have been compared to nuclear submarines in terms of the level of technical expertise that it takes to manage them. In addition to that, there is a very complex and diverse staff, and very complex and diverse patients and patient needs. Anywhere in the world, running a hospital is a very complex job. This is an additionally challenging environment for a variety of reasons. One is the sheer rate of change here, the change of the structure of the healthcare delivery system, the change in the regulations, the change inn the infrastructure and the country. Recruiting into the Middle East at this point in time is pretty challenging. We are trying to reach out to a variety of different countries and pull the best specialists from those countries into the Middle East. What a lot of people who have not been here do not know is how nice Abu Dhabi is, how clean it is, how safe it is, and how good the infrastructure is. So trying to get our recruits to understand that Abu Dhabi is really a very nice place to come and a nice place to live and work is one of our big challenges. An additional challenge to running an institution like SKMC is sheer number of countries that are represented in SKMC. We have staff from 51 different countries; we have physicians from over 40 different countries. So trying to get all of our clinical staff, our physicians and our nurses, to practice to the same recognized international standard, which may be different from the standard they practice in their home countries, is really a significant challenge. We address that challenge through open communication and through consistency and trying to identify internationally accepted algorithms of care and then put those algorithms into practice throughout the institution. In addition to that, we have patients from 30 or 40 different countries and trying to make sure the messages and the care we give is culturally appropriate for all of the patients that we see is quite a challenge. It’s exciting, but it’s quite a challenge.