Bahrain Confidential recently met with Dr. George Cherian, CEO of American Mission Hospital (AMH), to discuss the modern challenges facedby medical facilities, and the opening of AMH’s latest medical and dental clinic in Riffa.
Is it fair to say that no other medical centre in Bahrain has a history and culture as American Mission Hospital?
AMH certainly has a unique legacy as the first healthcare provider not only in Bahrain but in the entire GCC. AMH was established by Samuel Zwemer to provide health care to all sectors in the society. The rulers of the other GCC countries came to AMH to receive their health care in the early 1900s. When I took over AMH in 2007, AMH had already established deep roots in Bahrain.
What’s the biggest challenge currently facing AMH?
Why are costs running away?
One reason is that people are living longer and need greater medical attention at the end of their lives. Intensive care is expensive and often, near the end of someone’s life, is essentially futile care. Another reason is the advancements in medical technology that come at an ever greater cost.
A third reason is there’s now more regulations and bureaucratic controls in Bahrain. These include registering doctors from overseas and regulating pharmaceuticals. All these new regulations are increasingly complex and laborious to comply with, and they effect prices paid by the end user.
This wasn’t a concern even a few years ago when there were less healthcare providers in the Kingdom. It was, until recently, much easier to import medicines in Bahrain and in other parts of GCC. Being a responsible institution, AMH was able to import medicines from Europe and USA even as late as 2012. Now we have a far more complicated and expensive process.
Today a government body controls the import, distribution and pricing of medicines in Bahrain. All imported drugs must be approved regardless that they have already gone through – and passed – safety and other hurdles in Europe and the US.
I understand that all these regulations were introduced with the best of intentions, but they can be difficult and expensive to comply with.
You mentioned the registering of foreign doctors
Bahrain, like all the other GCC countries, heavily rely on imported manpower to run its healthcare system. Until recently, physicians who were licenced to practice in Europe and North America, for example, could easily practice in GCC. Now they need to have a new licence that’s issued in the GCC. This was introduced 5-6 years ago.
What other challenges does AMH face?
The challenge faced by all healthcare providers is how to tackle increasingly prevalent lifestyle diseases including Diabetes, hypertension, strokes, heart diseases, and cancer. These lifestyle diseases spread as a combination of an unhealthy lifestyle and are particularly common in this region. Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes, but unfortunately the wellness or prevention concept isn’t culturally entrained amongst much of the local population – and it seems to be getting worse.
Is there a remedy for this situation?
People being people, this is a tricky situation to tackle. The next big step in healthcare is value based health care, which means providing incentives for people to maintain a healthier lifestyle. In value based healthcare, if a patient after receiving proper care, needs to return for further treatment due to no other reason than they allowed the condition to return because they live an unhealthy lifestyle and didn’t take sensible and reasonable steps to maintain their own health, then they should be charged. Unless people feel a pinch on their pockets, many just don’t take their healthcare seriously.
It’s standard that doctors recommend treatments based not on what’s needed for the patient, but on what will bring most income to themselves and their hospital, but AMH doesn’t permit this practice?
Absolutely not. Our doctors are not incentivised in any way to recommend anything other than what the patient actually needs.
For example, when appropriate and whenever possible we prefer to always monitor patients before we accept them for treatment. We have secure and quarantined private rooms, where families can join, for this purpose. This makes no sense from a ‘business perspective’ as we often send people home after a few hours without their needing a hospital stay. But it’s the right thing to do for the patient. At AMH we do not recommend certain drugs nor hospitalization unless, or until, it is absolutely necessary.
Congratulations on your newly opened AMH clinic at Riffa. What makes it different?
The newly opened medical and dental clinic in Riffa will be connected with our other three clinics in Manama, Saar and Amwaj, through satellite facilities to ensure prompt and adequate medical attention.
The wellness and restorative healthcare centre has niche dieticians and exercise trainers to tackle obesity, diabetes and pre-diabetes.
The clinic houses the largest hydrotherapy pool in the kingdom, along with unique rehabilitation and physiotherapy facilities. Water aerobics will be a unique facility offered at AMH Riffa. The sports clinic will be one of the major specialities at the hospital. Dr Paolo Villigio, the personal physician of Lewis Hamilton of Formula One’s Mercedes team will run the department.
NHRA (National Healthcare Regulatory Authority) has introduced an accreditation standard to regulate every healthcare provider. After a detailed inspection, they award accreditations ranked by four levels. These are Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond, with Diamond being the highest standard.
I’m proud to say that AMH has been accredited with the diamond standard. Our newly opened Medical & Dental Clinic at Riffa will be inspected in the next six months.
American Mission Hospital – Manama
P.O. Box No. 1, Manama, Bahrain
Tel. + 973 17 177 711