Abu Dhabi: The emirate of Abu Dhabi is still facing a major shortfall in the provision of complex emergency care, and it lacks a dedicated specialist children’s hospital, a report has found.

However, extensive investment by the private sector in recent years has relieved supply shortfalls in a number of medical fields, including orthopaedics, medical oncology and obstetrics, according to the report by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (Haad).

The Haad regulates health care in the emirate, and released its review of the sector last week. In a press statement, the authority said the report is designed to “help Abu Dhabi respond to its current and future health-care demands while introducing guiding principles and specific plans for ... capacity and provision”.

Dr Amer Ashour, head of emergency and senior consultant at NMC Royal Hospital, told Gulf News that emergency medicine helps reduce morbidity and mortality within any community.

“This is why having a robust emergency medicine delivery system can be integral towards ensuring the well-being of a community,” he added.

According to the Haad report, there is an existing gap of 77 emergency physicians, and this demand is only expected to continue rising over the next few years. There is also a shortfall of more than 73 emergency bays at present.

Besides, “relatively few emergency departments offer a high level of competency” in treating complex cases, but that the demand for such care is “increasing most rapidly”, the report said. In fact, the projected demand for major trauma is higher than in Australia and the UK due to factors like the high proportion of young adult males in the Abu Dhabi population.

“There is a growing need for more emergency medicine experts worldwide, so Abu Dhabi is not unique in this assessment. This field of medicine is still relatively new, but developing it is crucial because emergency teams help stabilise patients before they can receive specialised care,” said Dr Magdi Mohammad, emergency medicine consultant at Burjeel Hospital.

Abu Dhabi Emirate currently houses more than 2.9 million residents, and about 79 per cent of them are expatriates. It is served by more than 8,600 doctors, 12,200 nurses and 4,600 allied health professionals.

Still, there is an emirate-wide undersupply of nursing and allied health staff “that requires urgent attention”, the Haad report states. There are also not enough highly qualified doctors in the fields of immunology, infectious diseases, vascular surgery, emergency medicine and psychiatry.

Private sector growth

In recent years, private health-care facilities in the emirate have seen the greatest growth, notably in the provision of outpatient consulting rooms, non-acute and long-term care beds and beds that provide same-day care. As reported by Gulf News earlier, a slew of new private hospitals have also opened their doors since January 2015, including Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, NMC Royal Hospital, Medeor 24X7 Hospital and Danat Al Emarat Hospital.

In addition, private facilities built 85 per cent of the current long-term and rehabilitation care capacity in Abu Dhabi, representing more than 250 additional beds, over the last few years. Despite this, there is a lack of long-term care beds, especially for patients covered by the government-funded Thiqa insurance plan.

There is also a growing demand for primary outpatient care in Abu Dhabi, but the emirate has 519 fewer consultation rooms than it needs. These shortfalls are mainly in downtown Abu Dhabi, Musaffah, Reem Island, Al Ain’s Al Yahar area, and the Western Region town of Ruwais.

In contrast, there are now enough beds in the capital and Al Ain for acute overnight care, which involves treating patients with serious short-term illnesses who may have to stay at the hospital for a few days for medical and surgical intervention. The Haad report states that more such beds do not have to be created until 2025, except for patients who need psychiatric treatment. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic is expected to soon fill the existing gap for acute overnight beds in transplant surgery.