Primary healthcare in Qatar
Our vision is to provide preliminary health care that is all encompassing.
The Primary Health Care Corporation works tirelessly to provide services to 22 centers, offering a variety of initiatives aiming to preserve the nation’s health and prevent disease. The Corporation ensures that these services are available for patients and their families, from infants to the elderly. Because health services and centers are so important, we spoke with Dr. Mariam Ali Abdul Malik, Director of Primary Health Care Corporation, to learn more about the Corporation and its plans for the future.
We focus on three stages to improve the quality of the service we offer at the health centers.
Mental health services are provided in all health centers. Our health programs are going to be part of the community’s culture.
To begin, can you explain the concept of Primary Health Care in Qatar, and why it is so important to the population?
When discussing primary healthcare, the Corporation works towards three main points. When people require medical attention, they initially seek a doctor in primary healthcare—the point is to foster healthy behaviors and a healthy lifestyle to support health and social security and in turn decrease the risk of disease. The doctors at the primary healthcare unit can provide complete care for a large group of diseases, and encourage self care through helping patients to be healthy by depending on themselves first rather than simply depending on health experts.
What is the vision for the Primary Health Care Corporation?
The vision follows the strategy of providing complete primary healthcare, focusing around the patients, and working in the framework of collaborating with people, families, and communities to promote health and wellness to all who live in Qatar, and on a global scale. This strategy focuses and is a guiding light towards promoting health and helping patients and citizens; not waiting for the disease or illness to happen before providing treatment and services to them. The focus is also on providing services for those who are healthy and detecting diseases early, before they affect the patient. This is what we are missing in the Qatari community, and this happens through programs that promote health and health education and early detection of both serious and moderate diseases.
How have the health centers in Qatar been developing lately?
Over the past years we have initiated strategies to improve the application of the health centers scheme, which includes identifying the aspects that facilitate the patients’ experience and enhance the quality of services in several stages. The first stage included improving non-clinical services with the “Hayak” team, and cutting down on patient waiting time. That was done by organizing the flow of patients and relieving busy areas, and improving the reception services by simplifying the operations and improving employee status.
The second stage from the 2014 scheme, took on the clinical services. For example, working hours at the health centers have been extended from 7am to 11pm non-stop, 13 health centers are open at the weekend, and we’ve extended working hours in the health center labs for them to be in during mornings and evenings, aswell as improving services at the eye clinic and other clinics.
The third stage includes projects to extend services that are currently provided, and new health centers. With these projects comes the appointment system and the “Hayak” hotline 107, as well as educational health, a triage system, improvements in lab and x-ray services, and the infectious disease units.
Can you tell us about the Corporation’s efforts in providing services to those who want to quit smoking?
In the field of smoking, the corporation evaluates all patients’ smoking history and provides them with a service to help them quit, to give those who wish to use this service the best possible chance of stopping. The service was first introduced in Al Gharraffa Health Center, and now we have clinics to aid smoking cessation in these health centers: Daain, Misimeer, Omar Bin Al Khattab, Abu Bakr al Sadiq, and Lubeib.
Tell us about your efforts around mental health and Autism Spectrum Disorder?
We launched the Mental Health Service beginning in Abu Bakr health center, and then Umm Salal and West Bay health centers. Doctors work on identifying, assessing and managing mental health problems, both intermediate and difficult, and this service is currently being provided in all health centers.
As for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder, we are currently testing all children at the age of 18 months. To improve early diagnosis, the Primary Health Care Corporation has added appointments at the age of 30 months, where they are re- tested for the disorder.
In the area of promoting health education, the Corporation has increased its educational activities in the last year and participated in a number of activities and events aimed at raising awareness in the community and to highlight the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including sport and physical activity. Primary Health Care Corporation has adopted health-promoting schools’ initiatives as they seek to promote students’ health. The number of schools annexed by the program has reached 105, and the Corporation is working on increasing this number in the coming years.
On 17th January 2016, we witnessed the opening of the first center for early detection of breast and bowel cancer in Al Wakra Health Center. We will soon open a center for the detection and screening of breast cancer and colon cancer at the Center for Lubeib, in addition to providing a vehicle that is equipped to carry screening devices to all parts of Qatar.
What does the Future hold for the Health centres?
At the Primary Health Care Corporation we seek to offer services through high-quality health centers, and for patients to have faith/trust that they will get the best healing treatments based on research and evidence. That comes through our permanent and constant commitment to provide continued care by ensuring that all patients have doctors who can see them in a timely fashion. Indeed, family doctor services will be activated in one of the health centers mid-May. The service will be provided through the rest of the health centers within a specific timeframe.