Moorfields Dubai eyes regional opportunities

Moorfields eye hospital is poised to open the UAE’s most advanced ophthalmology center in April 2007, and could start accepting patients as early as January, chief executive Ian Balmer has revealed.

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By  Healthcare Middle East Published  December 6, 2006

Moorfields eye hospital is poised to open the UAE’s most advanced ophthalmology center in April 2007, and could start accepting patients as early as January, chief executive Ian Balmer has revealed. As the latest in a cluster of international names to set up shop in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), local doctors can expect to see “an established postgraduate programme, a lot of regional business and a significant research programme,” from Moorfields, beginning with the relocation of five of its most senior clinicians to the new office, Balmer said. “We’re going to start off with about 32 staff, which will be a mixture from people coming to settle from Moorfields UK, and locally recruited staff,” he said. “That will give us an edge, frankly, because we will be providing our services at a subspecialty level and we’ll be able to bring the potential for research and teaching as well.” The news is a blow for smaller local ophthalmology clinics, which will have to compete with the might of Moorfields for business, but Balmer is confident the move will bring regional benefits. “We’re differentiating ourselves based on research and teaching,” he said. “We want to make the research we do relevant to the region; then we can build a programme on that.” In the last two years, Dubai has seen a glut of global healthcare brands take up residence in the region. It has been suggested that this is a result of new visa complications that have impacted on the number of outgoing referrals; healthcare providers are unwilling to lose out on patients and students. While acknowledging the importance of the bottom line, Balmer is quick to stress that patient numbers are not the main draw. “We (Moorfields UK) don’t get a huge number of Middle Eastern patients, so we weren’t motivated by trying to retain a referral base back to the UK. It isn’t that big,” he said. “What we were motivated by really was developing our brand abroad in an area we thought we could benefit from. “It’s the first time we’ve done this abroad, and we were attracted by the dynamism of the place, by the fact that our brand is quite well known here, and because potentially it opens up the whole region.” When questioned about potential teaching exchanges between UK-based and regional doctors, Balmer said “Absolutely, yes. “Dubai is an attractive location for a doctor in training to come because some of the diseases that are presented here will be different to those you see in downtown London. And again people will want to go from here to work in London because of the volume that can be seen.” In time, he added, Moorfields also hopes to offer fellowship programmes. For nursing staff, there are more immediate opportunities, as Moorfields Dubai is currently recruiting employees for the new unit. “We will be starting looking for nurses immediately, and the reason, as in all these areas, that nurses are scarce is that opthamology nurses need to be double trained if not triple trained,” Balmer said. “General nursing, opthamology and then theatre potentially, and they’re a rare breed. So we’re more than happy to talk to anyone who fits that criteria.” Healthcare professionals can expect to here more about the Centre’s plans at Arab Health, where Moorfields Dubai will be exhibiting as part of the DHCC stand. Tours of the twin-theatre complex will also be available. Moorfields Hospital UK is the world’s oldest centre for ophthalmic treatment and teaching, and co-manages the largest ongoing ophthalmic research programme. Over half of UK ophthalmologists, and a significant number of those overseas, received training there. Moorfields Dubai is the hospital’s first overseas venture.

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