Burjeel Medical City view from the top-1606626731494
A view of Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Early next year, Abu Dhabi’s health care landscape will see the addition of another new facility. And setting itself apart from other hospitals in the UAE, the Burjeel Medical City will offer advanced oncological care and bone marrow transplants.

The 1.2-million-square-feet hospital (about 111,400 square metres) in Mohammed Bin Zayed City comprises of four towers and an administrative building. It is set to open up before summer 2021, confirmed Dr Shamsheer Vyalil, chairman and managing director at VPS Healthcare, the hospital’s parent company, told Gulf News during a tour of the facility.

COVID-19 experience

But even before it began formally receiving patients, the hospital made an imprint in Abu Dhabi’s health care journey. Faced with the COVID-19 outbreak, officials stepped forward this year to rapidly convert a whole tower for the treatment of patients.

Dr Shamsheer Vyalil

“Everyone hit the ground running — the nursing team, the cleaners, the physicians. We converted rooms in the tower to negative pressure isolation rooms [which prevent contaminated air from patient rooms mixing with fresh air outside]. We added patient monitors, increased the fresh air in corridors, and increased [air] extraction capacity in inpatient rooms by adding fans,” Dr Vayalil remembered of the period in April.

“In April, we initially saw fairly stable patients. But then we also saw very sick patients. We were in the fortunate position to be a brand new facility, with enough equipment at hand,” added Dr Nicholas Wyon, anaesthesia and critical care consultant at the hospital.

There are no more COVID-19 patients at the facility any more, but the experience highlighted the vital role BMC will play once it is fully open. VPS, which sees 13,000 outpatients per day in its facilities in UAE and Oman, hopes the 400-bed quaternary hospital will stop the ‘leak’, from its network, of patients needing advanced care.

Cancer care

Dr Sadir Alrawi

To achieve this, the level of services on offer will be unique. Most notably, the facility hopes to start off by providing advanced cancer care, including palliative services, immunotherapy and stem cell treatments. It has also sourced advanced machines for radiation therapy, including the latest linear accelerators that reduce the duration of radiotherapy to just five days, compared to a month using older machines. According to Dr Sadir Alrawi, general surgery consultant, 30 per cent of all cancer patients require radiotherapy.

A special couch that allows for the patient to be precisely positioned will also enable radiotherapy to be targeted, including for brain tumours, head and neck tumours, prostate tumours, and abdominal tumours.

Transplant facility

In addition, the hospital will also operate as a certified transplant facility. A pair of connected operating rooms has been especially built so that doctors can operate on both the organ donor and recipient in proximity.

“Once everything is set up, we will become the only facility offering bone marrow transplants in the UAE, hopefully well before summer 2021. In fact, we already have multiple candidates who are waiting for the procedure,” Dr Alrawi said.

Advanced surgeries

The hospital has multiple operating rooms, including one with that will have an advanced robotic surgical system. Another is particularly unique because it has an MRI machine that can scan a patient during or soon after a procedure in order to fine-tune their interventions.

Burjeel Medical City brings state-of-the-art technology and facilities in cancer treatment-1606626728817
Burjeel Medical City brings state-of-the-art technology and medical facilities to cancer treatment. Image Credit: Supplied
Dr Nabil Debouni

“For many neurological or trauma cases, patients require MRIs during the procedure. In such a scenario, the patient usually has to be transferred to the MRI, scanned, and brought back to the operating room. At this hospital, the MRI-implanted operating room [will make this process much easier], and we believe this is the first such operation theatre within the UAE,” said Dr Nabil Debouni, group medical director at VPS.

He further explained that it is usually difficult to place MRI machines in operating theatres because it also needs to isolated in way that surgical staff are protected from the radiation. However, the team at Burjeel Medical City has managed to set up the machine in a section that can be sealed off from the rest of the operating room during an MRI.

Diagnostic services

Supporting treatment and patients care, Burjeel Medical City will also have a full-scale medical laboratory that can perform 10 million test annually. “The molecular lab, which was assembled at record speed at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, still performs 5,000-7,000 PCR tests per day. Spanning 420 square metres, it was the first section of the lab to begin operations,” said Mayur Sabhani, VPS’ general director of laboratory services.

Other kinds of tests will also soon become available, including those in histopathology, chemistry, immunoassay, allergy profiling, and microbiology. “When the lab is fully operational, it will be able to carry out 550 different tests. These are currently already available across the VPS network, but they will all be consolidated at the new facility,” Sabhani added.

Patient well-being

It isn’t just medical care that the new facility is prioritising, however. Keeping in mind the complex care to be offered, the hospital’s developers have paid special attention to the architecture, which is clearly reminiscent of Islamic influences with its arches, columns and ceiling-adorning geometric patterns.

“Chemotherapy is an arduous treatment, and the doctors will be dealing with very complex cases. We wanted this to be an inspirational place,” Dr Vayalil said.

A central lobby also features a sand-printing pendulum that creates programmed images in a soothing back-and-forth rhythm.

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Hub for medicine

Dr Vayalil hopes that the Abu Dhabi’s newest hospital will soon become a hub for medical care. “We want patients to feel comfortable coming here instead of travelling abroad for care. We will offer multidisciplinary care, and research will underpin our treatment approaches. In fact, even though the facility has not yet opened up, senior doctors associated with the hospital have already published 50 scientific papers on a range of subjects,” VPS’s chief official said.