Transforming paediatric health care in Qatar

SickKids and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) celebrated the fourth anniversary of their partnership at a special ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on Feb. 16. SickKids and HMC, the principal public health-care provider for the state of Qatar, are entering the final year of a five-year partnership that is transforming children’s health care in Qatar by developing child health research capacity, providing interdisciplinary education and enhancing paediatric clinical programs. The partnership encompasses every aspect of paediatric health care in the country, from primary to tertiary paediatric services.

“We have achieved significant progress in the development of paediatric services and this is due to the commitment, hard work and dedication of every member of our team towards providing patient family-centred care for children,” said Dr. Abdulla Al Kaabi, Project Director, HMC/SickKids International Partnership Project and Executive Vice-Chief Medical Officer at Sidra Medical and Research Center in Doha.

This year’s milestone-marking event had more of a celebratory flavour than usual, as representatives from HMC formally welcomed Dr. Michael Apkon, SickKids President and CEO, and recognized the contributions of Mary Jo Haddad, who served as President and CEO through the first four years of the SickKids-HMC partnership. Apkon was joined in Qatar for the celebrations by Cathy Seguin, Vice-President, International Affairs; Jeff Mainland, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Strategy, Quality, Performance and Communications; John Wedge, Chair, SickKids International; and Haddad.

“The partnership is a wonderful example of the positive changes that can result from a clear vision, as well as dedicated leadership, focus and a genuine commitment to improving the health system for children and families in Qatar,” said Apkon. “SickKids is very pleased to continue on this journey in partnership with HMC and we look forward to many great achievements in the year ahead.”

Much of the project work is focused on building capacity and sustainability at HMC (see sidebar for project highlights).

“Our relationship with SickKids is a true partnership; both organizations work as one to achieve a common goal – achieving excellence in paediatric care,” said Dr. Hanan Al-Kuwari, Managing Director of HMC.

Several events took place to mark the anniversary. Al Kaabi hosted a celebration lunch for the paediatric clinical teams, recognizing SickKids and HMC staff for the progress made over the past four years and honouring Haddad. A meeting was also held at the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, where Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, founder of the Qatar Foundation, welcomed guests from SickKids and HMC and explored areas for collaboration.

SickKids executives were given a tour of the state-of-the-art Sidra Medical and Research Center that is nearing completion. The centre will set new standards in patient care for women and children in Qatar and the entire Gulf region. SickKids supported the recruitment, selection and training of some staff for the centre, which is expected to be open to patients in 2015.

“It was heartwarming to see SickKids executives experience firsthand the positive impact SickKids staff at all levels and disciplines have made on paediatric health-care providers and the life of children in Qatar,” said Lutfi Haj-Assaad, Executive Director, Middle East Region, SickKids.

The SickKids guests were also treated to a robotics-simulation demo and tour of the Qatar Science & Technology Park, the national agency charged with executing applied research and delivering commercialized technologies in four themed areas: health sciences, energy, environment, and information and communication technologies. Health sciences innovation is an area where there is opportunity for future collaboration with SickKids.

“We should all be proud of the great work done over the past four years by our team and by our partners at Hamad Medical Corporation,” said Seguin. “We share a passion and commitment to children’s health and that is the foundation for this great partnership. It has been a tremendous learning experience for both the HMC team and SickKids team members who have been a part of this project. It is so rewarding for those involved to see our vision of improving children’s health globally come to life.”

Hamad Medical Corporation-SickKids partnership successes

In addition to enhancing the reputation of SickKids in the countries of the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, the SickKids-Hamad Medical Corporation project has established or influenced national health strategies in Qatar in paediatric emergency, primary health care, child and adolescent mental health, research and oncology. At home, the project has enhanced the exposure and influence of Canadian health-care organizations to the region, including Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, University Health Network, St. Michael’s Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and University of Toronto.

Here are some examples of HMC/SickKids International Partnership Project successes:

Complex Care
HMC now has a fully functional multi-disciplinary clinic providing a “one-stop shop” for patients with complex health problems, and has become a role model for multidisciplinary, patient- focused and family-centred service, with high staff and parent satisfaction. This is a service that did not exist in Qatar in 2010.

Pain Management Over 300 staff (physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and rehabilitation therapists) completed a two-day pain management education course. There are now 30 pain management champions in paediatrics and HMC has recently approved a paediatric pain policy.

Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) In the first year of the partnership, turnover of medical leadership was high with five successive chiefs in the position. The current chief was mentored by SickKids staff and has served for the past three years, providing stability and continuity. All PICU staff received training in critical care, and now an interprofessional model of care is quite evident. Such a model had not been used previously in HMC.

Child Health Research In addition to an outstanding research course, the fourth Paediatric Research Day in Qatar took place in January 2014. The event was planned, organized and delivered by HMC staff, with minimal involvement from SickKids. This is a perfect example of sustainability and self-sufficiency, key goals of the partnership.

Rehabilitation Establishment and development of a concept providing seamless, integrated, trans-disciplinary, family-centred, child-focused and play-based early intervention services within one program and one facility is the latest accomplishment in rehabilitation.

Cancer All children with diagnosed cancer are treated in accordance with internationally recognized protocols, which have reduced the variability of treatment by various clinicians. As well, all children diagnosed with cancer receive care within the window of time set for treatment by the Supreme Council of Health, the body that oversees the quality and effectiveness of service delivered by health providers in Qatar to ensure that standards are met and performance targets achieved.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Development of the NICU respiratory therapy program has resulted in significant reduction in pneumothoraces. In addition, two out of three faculty delivering NICU subspecialty nursing education are HMC staff, another example of sustainability.

Nursing Leadership A majority of charge nurses and head nurses have implemented “rounding for outcomes” on their paediatric units to enhance staff engagement.

Education Nursing: Eight paediatric nursing subspecialty training courses, accredited by the University of Toronto; development and delivery of 30 continuing education courses; 1,152 nurses trained; 402 nurses trained in paediatric up-skilling. Allied Health: Staff trained in post-acute courses (e.g. spina bifida, acquired brain injury) and acute courses (e.g. occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy); 100 per cent of respiratory therapists in NICU and PICU given up-skilling education; 100 per cent of dietitians trained in dietetic subspecialty education. Medical: Physicians attended numerous lectures by SickKids visiting physicians covering a range of paediatric topics, received training in academic job profiling, and in mentoring fellows and residents. In addition to formal training, several educational events have been held, covering topics such as child health research, pain awareness, nursing leadership, adolescent medicine, and genetics and genomics research.