Abu Dhabi: Seven popular private hospitals in the capital must ensure that they are no longer located in residential buildings within the next five years, a senior health official said in the capital on Wednesday.
Following a HAAD decision which came into effect on November 1, the hospitals must either relocate to non-residential buildings, or acquire all the units in the buildings they are currently occupying, Adeeb Salem Al Za’abi, manager of health facilities licensing at the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), told Gulf News.
“If this is not done, the licences of these hospital branches will not be renewed after the five-year grace period lapses. The decision is intended to safeguard the safety of residents in the emirate. In addition, it will also ensure that health care facilities meet all HAAD health and safety regulations,” Al Za’abi said.
In addition to the location regulations for existing hospitals, the HAAD decision stated that no new licences would be approved for hospitals to be located in residential buildings.
According to the HAAD 2011 statistics, the seven existing hospitals in residential buildings in the capital have nearly 293 beds between them.
However, the decision does not apply to smaller medical facilities like medical centres, clinics or polyclinics, which can still be located in residential buildings, Al Za’abi clarified.
“This is because hospitals, by definition, see a much larger volume of patients than clinics, and need certain specialised facilities. While the seven hospitals are not violating health and safety standards at present, some concerns need to be addressed,” he explained.
For example, HAAD inspections found that many of the corridors in hospitals located in residential buildings are too narrow, and also double as waiting areas. Doors to the bathrooms also face some doctors’ rooms.
“Some facilities do not have dedicated lifts for emergency and critical care patients. They also use the same lifts to transfer medical waste, which could lead to the spread of severe infections. While there have been no such episodes so far, this decision is a precautionary measure to prevent them from occurring in future,” Al Za’abi said.
Other concerns found among hospitals in residential buildings include a lack of ramps to provide access for the disabled, as well as insufficient parking spaces for patients and medical staff.
“Most importantly, in some existing hospitals in residential buildings, general systems serve both tenants and the hospital units. For instance, a linked system of AC ducts increases risk of infections spreading. On the other hand, if the same electromechanical system is used for the entire building, certain wards, like the emergency unit and operation theatres, do not always have access to enough power,” the official said.
The HAAD regulation will not affect the capacity of the health care sector in the emirate, Al Zaabi assured.
“There are currently enough hospitals to meet residents’ needs, and at least three of the seven hospitals in residential buildings have other branches in the capital which are housed in purpose-built hospital buildings,” he said.
“Even if their branches in residential buildings close down because they are unable to relocate or acquire the current buildings, other larger hospitals are expected to become operational in the next five years. This will ensure that the health care needs of residents are adequately met,” Al Za’abi added.
When contacted, Nizar Mouad, corporate marketing director at Al Noor Hospital Group, said hospital executives were reviewing the options for the Al Noor Hospital branch on Khalifa Street.
“This branch is very popular, and can be conveniently accessed by many of our patients. Therefore, our first preference is to acquire the entire building and keep the hospital operational in the same location,” Mouad said.
“We have enough time to make a decision as to how we will comply with the HAAD regulation. But we agree that the decision to move medical facilities away from residential buildings will definitely enhance health and safety for all,” he added.