Al Ain hospital's next historic step

The Oasis Hospital, opened almost 50 years ago and with close ties to the Royal Family, is being given a major upgrade.

Dr Pat Kennedy treats a woman in 1960 at the original hospital, which was donated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
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AL AIN // A historic hospital, opened almost 50 years ago by Christian missionaries and with close ties to the Royal Family, is being given a major upgrade. Oasis Hospital in Al Ain will have a new 150-bed facility by 2012, it was announced yesterday at a groundbreaking ceremony, a few months shy of its 50th anniversary. Funded by grants from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the new facility will have both outpatient and inpatient services and will include orthopaedics, ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat speciality clinics.

"As the shovels go into the ground, it's not necessarily a new hospital but the continuation of a vision by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a man I would have loved to have met," said David Printy, the hospital's president and chief executive. Oasis Hospital was founded in 1960 by the husband-and-wife doctor team of Pat and Marian Kennedy at the invitation of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation.

The hospital was the first in Al Ain and where it stands now was also the site of Abu Dhabi's first school. The hospital, Mr Printy said, had avoided duplicating most of the specialities available in other major Al Ain hospitals. Instead, the focus had been to develop specialised services. Over the past few months, Oasis Hospital has added orthopaedic services and a clinical psychologist to its staff.

It also plans to bring in an eye specialist in November and soon will have a cardiac care unit to transform the hospital from a maternity hospital to a full medical care facility. The present inpatient building will be renovated to include more VIP suites, educational facilities and the administrative wing. It will continue to offer obstetrics and paediatrics services for women and children as well as urgent care, men's health, internal and general medicine and radiology.

"Oasis Hospital has made a contribution to the community over the years to improving the status of women and children and to the health of men," Mr Printy said. "The population of Al Ain in 1960 was 1,800 and decreasing. Many diseases were here and that has turned around remarkably when Sheikh Zayed opened his guest quarters and said, 'Please Drs Kennedy, open a clinic,' and made room for a hospital to be built on this land."

"We today walked on very special grounds. I want us to think what it must have been like 50 years ago when Sheikh Zayed and Drs Pat and Marian Kennedy walked on this very land. Nothing was here except for sand and Sheikh Zayed's majlis. And what a vision Sheikh Zayed had for his country at a time when there wasn't a country. We trust that this facility will be a model for the region." Several of Sheikh Zayed's sons and daughters, including Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, were born at Oasis Hospital.

"Oasis Hospital has been a very special place for many years. It stands as an example to the world. Christian missionaries came to this Muslim nation and developed a relationship that is admired around the world, one where we all respect each other," Mr Printy said. "Oasis is a special treasure where we have a responsibility to be an example to the world where we recognise that we are all the children of Abraham."

Designed by a team of Australian architects, headed by Ken Sowerby of PeddleThorp Architects, the new building design was inspired by traditional living in Al Ain. "The design is inspired by the land, the colours, the climate, the people, the culture and the way people live here," said Mr Sowerby. According to Mr Sowerby, he and the architectural team have been working on the design for two years.

Oasis Hospital declined to comment on the cost of the project.