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Building health centres of the future

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Emirates Hospital in Jumeira
The future of hospital designing will be focused on how buildings can be more flexible, says Dr Vivek Desai, founder, HOSMAC

Healthcare design is a complex business in the construction industry. Unlike hotels, education institutes or shopping malls, hospitals must follow a defining entity of medical industry requirement, i.e., control parameters to minimise infections. This can be achieved by adhering to good design practices in space development and all other electro-mechanical design requirements such as Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, drainage and electrical supplies and its redundancy requirement for life-saving equipment usage and performance.

 To cater to this stringent need, Dr Vivek Desai founded HOSMAC in 1996 with an aim to create a holistic service platform for healthcare management models and spaces. HOSMAC Middle East was established in the year 2007. However, the firm ventured into the Middle East market in 2003. The company is headquartered in India and has an office in Dubai. Some of their projects in the Middle East include Emirates Hospital, Dubai, Prime Hospital, Dubai, Gulf Medical University, Ajman and Trauma Hospital, Sharjah, among others.

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Dr Vivek Desai

After completing his MBBS, Desai realised that he was more inclined towards other aspects of healthcare rather than general practice. He found that there were significant gaps in hospital management, and hence there was immense scope for improvement. That’s when he decided to quit medicine, where he was working as an intensivist, and entered consultancy. During the last 25 years, Desai has had the opportunity to work as an advisor to renowned organisations such as the World Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, among others.

 In an interview with Omnia Health Magazine, Desai, who also serves as the Managing Director of HOSMAC, shared: “We provide end-to-end healthcare solutions right from conceptualisation to commissioning of the medical facility. Our team comprises over 120 members, including doctors, hospital administrators, medical planners, architects, civil and MEP engineers, interior designers, biomedical engineers, chartered accountants, IT specialists and communication experts. Having designed over two million square feet of healthcare space in India, Middle East and Africa, HOSMAC aims to be a one-stop solution for healthcare consultancy in these regions and beyond.”

Planning ahead

When asked about the state of the Middle East’s healthcare construction industry, Uday Kumar Alaham, Managing Director, HOSMAC Middle East, highlighted that the industry is very well structured and complies with international standards of healthcare infrastructure. It covers all regulatory approvals such as civil defence, nuclear radiation, fire and life safety, among others. These approvals help any healthcare facility owner to obtain international accreditation from recognised boards without any challenges.

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Uday Kumar Alaham

He said: “To give you an example, almost all of the healthcare facilities in the UAE, which are more than six months into operations, have obtained an accreditation board certification or are in the process of getting themselves accredited to attract international patients, with international health insurance cover.”

One of the significant challenges faced by the healthcare industry in the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries at present is that they don’t have clear pre-qualified and approved healthcare construction groups, stressed Alaham. This impacts the duration of construction of healthcare facilities, which has a significant impact on project budget and cost escalation.

“If the regulatory bodies of healthcare construction industry establish a norm of having pre-qualified healthcare infrastructure developing groups, I am sure that the planning, procurement and implementation of complex healthcare infrastructure development will be more efficiently handled and completed within a pre-set timeframe and cost,” he added.

Furthermore, he explained that healthcare design should not be limited to design inputs for the present need but also must have a plan for the expanding and demanding healthcare industry while keeping in mind the decades to come. Facilities that undergo organic growth face the challenge of infrastructure collapse and can be detrimental for patients and staff working in such facilities. “Due to increased healthcare demand, we need to plan well so that a modular addition of departments, sections or new features can be merged with existing facilities with minimal interruption to their operation,” he said

HOSMAC Middle East has executed several healthcare projects in the UAE and other Gulf and Middle Eastern countries. One such project was the Emirates Hospital in Jumeira, Dubai.

Alaham said that the project was challenging due to two reasons – the first being the proximity to the sea and the second due to the height restriction of the building.

“We were able to come out successfully with two basement floors car park facility and a spacious 50-bed hospital in above three ground floors. Our scope of services for Emirates Hospital included turnkey design, project management and equipment planning,” he said.

Latest trends in hospital design

According to Desai, something as essential as indoor air quality, which was neglected earlier, has become a paramount factor to monitor in hospitals.

“Globally, we have realised that the fundamentals have to be in place to have a successful healthcare infrastructure,” he stressed. “The future of hospital designing will be focused on how hospital buildings can be more flexible at the time of disasters, such as the pandemic we are facing currently. The tiniest of details will come into action at such times. For example, the way the services have been laid out in a hospital should make the process seamless and quick; air conditioning must be adequate and so on.”

In addition, he added, there will be an increased emphasis on how technology can replace the human interface in both diagnoses and treatment. As a result, services and features like artificial intelligence and virtual consultation will see more traction in healthcare.

Commenting on HOSMAC’s future plans, Desai emphasised that the firm is predominantly looking into two areas for the future.

The first is to partner with construction companies, where joint expertise can help design and build quality hospitals. This synergy will utilise the strengths of both partners. For example, HOSMAC can provide design, engineering, clinical department construction management support, and equipment planning services, whereas construction entities can handle the procurement and built aspects.

“Second, HOSMAC intends to get into retainer management contracts, i.e., operate hospitals for promoters. Having 25 years of experience in management consultancy, we believe our application of best practices and leanings can help enhance operations of any facility,” he concluded.

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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