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Friday, October 8, 2010

UPMC proposes building Oman's first children's hospital

Friday, October 8, 2010
Pittsburgh Business Times - by Kris B. Mamula or (412) 208-3825.

The government of Oman is weighing a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center proposal to build and operate the nation’s first children’s hospital.

Oman, which is about the size of Kansas and has a population of 3.4 million, is going through a period of rapid growth and is planning to build a children’s hospital and rehabilitation center within three to five years, said Dr. Khoula Al Said, a senior consultant and pediatric gastroentologist at The Royal Hospital, a government owned and operated facility in the capital of Muscat. Khoula Al Said was among three doctors who represented Oman’s Ministry of Health in touring UPMC’s Children’s Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital the week of Sept. 20.

A government task force, including Khoula Al Said, was scheduled to meet Oct. 8 to discuss UPMC’s offer. Ministry of Health representatives were scheduled to tour one or two other children’s hospitals before making a decision on UPMC’s proposal, she said.

The Omani team liked what they saw in Pittsburgh. “We were quite impressed,” Khoula Al Said said. “Hopefully, we’ll go with Pittsburgh. The details are still under way.”

UPMC officials would not disclose specifics of the talks, but spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said, “We are in the very early stages of discussions with the Health Ministry of Oman about possible relationships that will enhance health care in that country, while supporting UPMC’s mission at home.”

The Omani visit followed a 15-member delegation’s trip to Oman from Pittsburgh in April, both organized by the nonprofit Pittsburgh Middle East Institute, an Oakland-based group that advocates trade, education and cultural ties. Renewable energy, green technology and health care were among the topics discussed at the April meeting, but health care was the focus of the Pittsburgh trip.

“They were absolutely blown away by Children’s Hospital,” said Simin Curtis, president and founder of the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute, who accompanied the Omani delegation. “This is an important step in the process.”

Children’s opened the $625 million Lawrenceville hospital in 2009, a virtually paperless facility that has one of the most advanced integrated electronic medical records systems in the country, hospital officials say.

In April, Children’s Institute President and CEO David Miles and Michael Costelloe, who formerly oversaw UPMC’s hospitals in Ireland and the United Kingdom, met with Dr. Ahmed Al Saidi, the Minister of Health, in Oman. Costelloe has since left UPMC, but the three men discussed ways to integrate pediatric rehabilitation with education, a model used at the institute, Miles said.

“We talked to them about a consultant kind of agreement,” Miles said. “We met with him an hour and said we would be willing to help. It all depends on what the Omanis want.”

Omanis receive free health care, and the country’s population was expected to double in the next 25 years, according to the Health Ministry. Among the goals cited in the country’s five-year plan for 2006-2010 was the “urgent need for capacity building” in a country where nearly 28 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 24.

In a model UPMC CFO Robert DeMichiei in August described as “made in Pittsburgh and sold all over the world,” UPMC operates ISMETT, an organ transplant center in Sicily, two cancer centers and a hospital in Ireland, and has an agreement with the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation to open cancer centers in the United Kingdom.

UPMC joins Johns Hopkins University, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and other big academic medical centers in trying to establish an international footprint and new revenue sources, but the strategy has not been proven, according to Neal Hogan, managing director of Miami-based health care consultant BDC Advisors. UPMC has the added burden of not being as well known as other hospital networks, even though the health system has a reputation for excellent care, he said.

“Strategically, it makes a lot of sense, but does it work?” he said. “It’s still unclear.”

Read more: UPMC proposes building Oman's first children's hospital - Pittsburgh Business Times
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