As part of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) commitment to fulfilling the objectives of the Qatar National Mental Health Strategy, in October the healthcare provider introduced a new integrated psychiatric service for adult patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities. Under the new program, specialized mental health services are being provided to patients with intellectual disabilities as part of their ongoing medical care.
Dr. Mohamed Eltahir, Senior Consultant, Psychiatrist, said HMC’s Mental Health Service currently runs a number of specialized clinics that address the care needs of children and adult patients. He says the integrated clinics, which are thought to be the first of their kind in the region, make the service more accessible to adults with intellectual disabilities, enhancing good care outcomes, and patient experience.
“Many individuals with behavioral disorders and intellectual disabilities have complex mental health needs and could encounter barriers, including environmental factors, which prevent timely access to appropriate mental health support. The new integrated service aims to provide more accessible community-based care to these patients through delivering comprehensive psychological, social, and rehabilitative care,” said Dr. Eltahir.
Dr. Eltahir went on to say that caring for an individual with an intellectual disability or mental disorder requires a coordinated approach across multiple service sectors. He says a strong emphasis on family and caregiver involvement is also required.
The first phase of the new integrated psychiatric structure involved liaison with services for children and included collaboration across a number of organizations, including the Child Development Center at HMC’s Rumailah Hospital, The Shafallah Center, Sidra Medicine, and a number of other private providers.
“Adjusting services to better meet the needs of patients with intellectual disabilities will not only improve existing services but will also result in the development of new high-quality mental health services. It will allow us to play a more proactive role in meeting the mental health needs of these patients and potentially to prevent deterioration of their existing condition,” said Dr. Eltahir.
He said providing specialist intervention and support to a person who is experiencing early symptoms of mental illness is not only critical to preventing or reducing the progress of mental illness, but also for improving the patient’s overall health and quality of life.
“We have made great strides in developing more integrated psychiatric services for patients under the age of 18 with intellectual disabilities and have now begun providing specialized clinics for our adult patients. As part of the new service, a weekly integrated clinic has been introduced at the Enaya Continuing Care Center 2 in Muaither and clinics are being offered through the Home Healthcare Service. Two weekly dedicated clinics have also been added to HMC’s psychiatry hospital and there are plans to add additional clinics,” added Dr. Eltahir.
Dr. Eltahir noted that his team, including Dr. Hesham Rustom, Consultant Psychiatrist, are working closely with HMC’s outpatient departments and the Primary Healthcare Corporation to identify an appropriate referral process for patients who have mild to moderate mental health needs that could be cared for outside the hospital environment.
The Qatar National Mental Health Strategy is an important part of the National Health Strategy, which emphasizes the importance of meeting the needs of existing and future generations through an integrated system that aims to achieve better health for all citizens. As the main provider of specialized mental healthcare in Qatar, HMC has been a strong supporter of the government’s ongoing efforts to highlight the importance of good mental health and wellbeing as a national priority and to improve access to mental healthcare services in the country.