Hundreds of appointments made at UAE's largest hospital before opening

Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City opens its doors to the public on November 3

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The UAE's largest hospital has begun taking hundreds of calls to book appointments just a few weeks before it opens its doors.

On November 3, Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City will begin receiving between 2,500 and 3,000 outpatients per day — with room for 741 inpatients.

Many will be referrals from neighbouring Mafraq Hospital, which is set to close in January. Mafraq Hospital patients will be transferred to SSMC.

Speaking to The National, Dr Nahed Balalaa, a surgeon and member of the committee managing the opening, said they had contacted Mafraq Hospital's patients to book them into SSMC.

“We have opened our scheduling and Mafraq’s outpatients are now receiving text messages that their follow up appointments will be at SSMC,” she said.

Close to 1,000 appointments were booked at SSMC in a single day.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Dr. Nahed Balalaa at Sheikh Shakhboot Hospital, Mafraq. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Dr Nahed Balalaa is a breast surgeon at Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City. She is leading the "dry run" at SSMC to ensure the handover from Mafraq Hospital runs smoothly. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Like many of SSMC's initial staff of 3,000, Dr Balalaa previously worked for Mafraq Hospital. She joined the hospital in 2004 and was chairwoman of the outpatient department.

Dr Balalaa is one of a handful of Emirati female surgeons in the UAE.

She is leading the "dry run" at SSMC to ensure operations run as smooth as possible.

“We are still preparing to make this hospital better than Mafraq. All the services will be transferred to SSMC but we will add additional services. We will have new high-tech equipment, new services and a larger staff,” she said.

SSMC is hiring additional staff from government hospitals and from around the world.

The hospital plans to have at least 4,000 employees, by the time it is completely up and running, to attend to thousands of patients each day.

Patients who require surgery will be admitted to Mafraq Hospital until the transition to SSMC is complete on January 9.

“This is when we will move the inpatients, critical care and ER,” she said.

“My patients, when they visit me now at Mafraq, are asking when they can move to SSMC. This building [SSMC] has been here for years and everyone was wondering when can they visit.

“Patient care, safety and quality are our priority and we are confident that we will meet their and the government’s expectations,” she said.

The hospital has four towers dedicated to children and maternity, surgical specialities, medical specialities and burn and critical care.

SSMC has 18 operating rooms, four wings in the outpatient building and additional outpatient clinics for haematology, oncology and infusion and an obstetrics and gynaecology unit in the maternity and children's towers.

The hospital also has a surgical robot that allows doctors to perform complex procedures with precision, efficiency and speed.

The multibillion-dollar hospital has been in the works for almost a decade. A picture of President Sheikh Khalifa looking over initial plans in 2011 is hung in the hospital reception.

The hospital will serve all patients regardless of what insurance they have, Saeed Al Kuwaiti, head of the SSMC's operation committee, said.