In line with Qatar’s aim to provide world-class medical services, the Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiac Surgery sections of Hamad Medical Corporation recognized the need to expand their current capacity to meet international standards of excellence. Following an evaluation by the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, it was recognized that the current annual patient volume was not sufficient to achieve and maintain an international level quality of care in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery. To achieve international recognition it was acknowledged that the current caseload of 100 per annum would need to be increased, over time, to a minimum of 250 pediatric cardiac operations a year. The 20,000 obstetric deliveries per annum generate a demand for approximately 100 congenital heart surgeries every year. Therefore, due to the nature of Qatar’s population growth, it was agreed that the only feasible way to meet such standards was to accept patients from other countries around the region.

Dr. Ahmed Sallehuddin (Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery) and Dr. Reema Kamal (Chief of Pediatric Cardiology) put together a team to establish an overseas patient program. The program would not only present HMC with the humanitarian benefits achieved through such an initiative, but would also provide income to the hospital and, perhaps most importantly, present the opportunity for HMC staff to further develop and improve their skills in accordance with international levels of excellence. Through the transfer of these overseas patients, their aim was to increase the annual patient volume from 105 (performed in 2012) to 150 cases by the completion of its first year (January 2014), without compromising care for local patients here in Qatar.

Dr Ahmad Sallehuddin with Taha and family after surgery

On 16 March 2012, a team of physicians from Hamad Medical Corporation travelled to Ahmed Gasim Hospital, Khartoum, Sudan to establish contacts and initiate channels for the international transfer of Sudanese children to Qatar for surgical procedures. Eminent officials from the Ministry of Health, Khartoum and the Embassy of Qatar in Sudan met to secure official sanctions of the mission and an agreement was established to bring pediatric patients from Sudan to Doha for cardiac surgery. Since the 10 June 2012, the team has transferred and successfully operated on 27 Sudanese, one Yemeni and one Syrian patient, financed entirely by the Sheikh Eid Muhammad Al Thani Charity - a Qatar based Islamic charitable organization, founded for “the benefit of needy people in the region”. One element of this agreement with the Eid Al Thani organization is for a team from HMC to travel to Sudan up to twice a year to perform various surgical procedures and provide medical supplies paid for by the charity, and to educate staff in various Sudanese hospitals on the treatment of cardiac surgery patients. Since the arrangement was put in place, Dr. Ahmad Sallehuddin and a team from HMC have visited Sudan on three occasions, successfully operating on 50 children.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Jaafar after Surgery in Sudan

Similarly, in April 2013, an MOU was signed between Chain of Hope, HMC and Qatar Foundation to transfer patients from around the Arab region to HMC for cardiac surgery. The Chain of Hope organization was founded in 1995 by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub to provide children suffering from life-threatening heart disease with the corrective surgery and treatment, to which they do not have access. In order to do so, patients are identified from countries around the world and assigned to certain hospitals within their region. It was agreed that Chain of Hope would identify 20 patients to be transferred to HMC for treatment, with all expenses paid by Qatar Foundation. By 1 January 2014, the twentieth patient returned to their home country following successful treatment at HMC.

With the help of two coordinators (one clinical, one administrative) provided by the HMC/SickKids Partnership Project, and under the leadership of Dr Ahmad Sallehuddin and Dr Reema Kamal, a total of 52 patients, funded entirely by the two charities, have been treated at HMC to date. This very successful initiative has enabled the team to increase their annual caseload to well over the intended target of 150 cases, enhancing the team’s knowledge and competencies of the cardiac medical team and strengthening HMC’s humanitarian ethos -

providing children and families from under privileged and poverty stricken countries access to the necessary expert treatment that they would otherwise never receive. “We are delighted with how the program has gone in its first year,” Dr Ahmed Sallehuddin stated. “The team has been incredible in their determination to help these children, and this,

combined with the support provided by Eid Al Thani Charity, Qatar Foundation and Chain of Hope, has meant that we have had the opportunity to give these children a full life that they otherwise would never have. However, this year is only the start, and with the support of HMC, we aim to increase our numbers to pursue our long term goal of becoming the leading provider of pediatric cardiac surgery in the region.”

This year at the Stars of Excellence Awards 2014, the Pediatric Cardiac International Patient Program won the Rising Star award in the Patient Experience Category.