Dubai's private hospitals hope to announce 'Covid-free' status soon

Some hospitals are aiming at a 'Covid-19 free status as early as June-end of this year'

Dubai Health Authority. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

Dubai Health Authority. Image courtesy Dubai Media Office Twitter handle.

A majority private hospitals in the UAE are well on their way to becoming 'Covid-free', heads of major private-sector medical groups in the UAE told Khaleej Times.

As Covid-19 patients in the UAE reduce drastically, hospitals in Dubai are getting back to the 'new normal'. Some have said they hope to achieve zero coronavirus patient status in their hospital networks as early as the end of June 2020.

As private hospitals have created sections for Covid patients, it is allowing a good number of beds to admit persons with other health issues and the number of outpatients are increasing.

As the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has given directions to shift mildly-infected patients from temporary hotel facilities to DHA-mandated quarantine centres, such as hotels, the Al Warsan Hospitality Centre and field hospitals. Elective surgeries and other procedures are also back in full swing, according to all hospital networks that Khaleej Times reached out to.

On Tuesday, Amer Ahmad Sharif, head of Dubai's Covid-19 Command and Control Centre, said a number of hospitals in the emirate do not have any Covid-19 cases.

"Most government and private hospitals in the emirate have resumed diagnostic and treatment services and their capacity is not under pressure due to Covid-19 cases," he said.

Hospitals to have Covid-19-free status soon

Dr Shajir Gaffar, the CEO of VPS Healthcare said, "Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery has achieved the Covd-free status. On the other hand, Medeor Hospital has a few more Covid-19 patients. They are undergoing treatment and are doing well. We expect that all of them will be recovering soon."

Shatrujeet Rai, the Hospital Director at Prime Hospital, said, "We have one hospital in our network, and several medical centres. Given the excellent manner in which UAE health authorities have dealt with the crisis, it depends on the numbers. I predict we should be Covid-19-free by end of June."

However, Rai said a section of the hospital, including two to three isolation beds will continue to be kept aside for Covid-19 patients as a precautionary measure.

Andre Daoud, the CEO of Medcare Hospitals and Medical Centres said, "At Medcare we kept two of our hospitals Covid-free, and one of our hospitals was converted to a Covid admission facility. In this way, we were able to segregate the type of patients that we were admitting.

"Outpatients, who might be identified with the virus, will be immediately triaged, isolated and transferred to other facilities, explained Daoud.

Michael Davis, CEO of NMC Health Plc said, "NMC has a country-wide network of hospitals and clinics and we have reserved few hospitals and at zones inside a hospital, like maternity and childcare, as Covid-19 free, whilst maintaining a state of preparedness on the Covid-19 protocols. That's done to offer confidence to the community."

Elective surgeries and minor procedures in full-swing

Dr Shajir said, "Yes, we started to provide this service as per the DHA regulations and guidelines. General Anesthesia is kept for urgent and semi-urgent cases. The majority of our surgeries are performed under regional anaesthesia and regional or local blocks. Major elective surgeries that require significant blood transfusion are put on hold at the moment."

Elective surgeries are now resuming, and we see a good number of people coming back to avail healthcare services across all our hospitals and medical centres said, Daoud. "Patients who had postponed their surgery in light of the pandemic situation are also now coming back to resume and carry on the necessary care, treatment and surgeries they needed to put on hold in the past few months," he added.

At NMC, Davis said, "The communities and neighbourhoods are still coming for essential medications and consultations. The regulatory also has now approved elective surgeries taking less than two and a half hours and the ASA 1 and 2 surgeries."

Are people confident about returning to hospitals?

Commenting on public confidence, Dr Shajir said, "The number of patients coming to the hospital has increased when compared to the peak pandemic times. With this, it is evident that people are confident and trust the healthcare system in the UAE. In addition to this, our telemedicine is active and we are doing good. We are getting numerous inquiries."

To which, Daoud said, "During the entire pandemic, when people needed treatment they were not sparing any effort to seek access to our facilities especially that we have ensured we applied international standards in terms of safety."

What are Covid-19 zones in hospitals?

There are separate zones for treatment of patients in every hospital in the UAE, to ensure there is no mixing of regular and infected patients. Here are how the networks have set up zones:

At NMC Healthcare, Davis said, "We have separate triage areas for patient segregation and "zoning". The isolation rooms and the staff are dedicated to only coronavirus patients. There is a strict protocol laid to manage the process. There are other examples where we have reserved one complete building for Coivd-19 patients and the services that it has exclusively to them are fever clinic, OP/IP, pharmacy and diagnostics."

Commenting on the facilities at Medcare, Daoud said, "We have also implemented changes in the air and ventilation system by building more negative pressure single rooms and conversion of existing air handling system to prevent air contamination and cross-transmission."

He added, "Our doctors and nurses are extremely vigilant in detecting possible symptoms of Covid and should a patient be suspected of having an infection, they are treated by following the protocols to minimize the risk of further cross-infection. All the patients are triaged as per the risk assessment, Covid-19 case definition, and severity scale."

The hospital has also provided PCR testing facility for all the inpatients and the outpatients. All the positive patients are assessed as per the defined criteria to admit at the isolation facility, home, or the hospital. Protocols for home quarantine and related patient education were provided to patients. "We had also implemented the robust clinical pathway from the time of patient admission until discharge as per the recommendations from the national guidelines and current international evidenced-based practices," added Daoud.

Separate entry and exit points for patients

At the Medeor network of hospitals, an entire floor was reserved for Covid-19. "The rooms were converted as isolation rooms with negative pressure to avoid spreading. The whole floor was closed to others except for doctors and nurses. We minimized staff exposure by limiting the number of staffs looking after these patients," explained Dr Shajir.

"Now, at Medeor Hospital, we have demarcated the floor into two. Covid-19 patients have been shifted to isolation rooms on one side. We have assigned staff to look at these patients. They won't be mingling with others. The entry to this area has been restricted. The staff are working in shifts here with all the protective gears. They have a distinct entry and exit option so that there is no need for them to move out of the demarcated area for anything," he added.

Separation of moderate and severe patients

Rai from the Prime Hospital said given the present protocol only moderate to severe cases are moved to hospitals and medical facilities. "The rest are in quarantine facilities. That being said, right from day one, we ensured there was no mixing of patients. Even patients who entered our out-patient department (OPD), were checked for fever, and if they had a temperature, they were not allowed into the premises and were immediately isolated," explained Rai.

Doctors and medical professionals in the hospitals and medical centres are always in strict personal protection equipment (PPE), according to Rai.

"We sterilize our facility thoroughly and ensure it is microbe-free. We are fumigating the entire floor before we open up for non-Covid19 patients. As far as OPD is concerned, we do not accept patients with Covid-19 symptoms as there is a screening process at the entrance as well as the emergency rooms," he added.


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