Browsing 'sidra' News

Kelly Hunter/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Pregnant women and new mothers with anxiety, depression or other problems now have a new resource to turn to in Qatar.

This week, the Sidra Medical and Research Center opened the nation’s first Women’s Perinatal Mental Healthcare Clinic.

There, professionals will offer guidance and counseling for mothers with attachment and bonding issues, as well as those dealing with previous trauma and loss, Sidra announced.


Sidra Womens Perinatal Mental Healthcare Clinic team

Women with more serious problems, such as OCD, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can also receive support at the clinic.

Currently, the center will only see patients who are referred by Sidra’s Obstetrics Clinic, Hamad Medical Corp. hospitals and Primary Health Care Corp. centers.

However, plans are afoot to expand the services offered.


Emotional health

In a statement, Dr. Felice Watt, division chief for Women’s Mental Health, said taking care of emotional health is just as important for new mothers as looking after their physical health.

She added:

“Mental health issues are common during this period and the right support and treatment can have a lasting positive impact on the mother, infant, and the entire family.

Our women’s mental healthcare team will provide culturally sensitive, woman and family centered support and treatment during this important time.”

Demand for better mental healthcare services in Qatar has been on the rise for some time.

Troy Benson/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The call grew louder earlier this month following the suicide of an American expat, with many community members saying they wouldn’t know where to turn for help with their issues.

Pregnant women and new mothers have also been seeking better support services.

In a series on giving birth in Qatar last year, many moms said they struggled with depression and questions about how to take care of their babies, and their husbands “had no idea how to support them.”

Women who suffer miscarriages in Qatar also say they have trouble coping without help.

Sidra progress

After several hurdles, Sidra partially opened last May with the launch of some pediatric outpatient clinics. And it started doing day surgeries in November.

This year, all 40 of its outpatient services are expected to become fully operational.

But so far, there is no opening date for the entire hospital, which has been delayed for years.


Adam Sherer/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Victims of child abuse may finally have an avenue to seek help in Qatar with the launch of a new program at Sidra Medical and Research Center.

The Sidra Child Advocacy Program (S-CAP) aims to take a comprehensive approach to the problem of child abuse in the country.

According to government figures, one out of every five children in Qatar are subject to abuse either at home or in school.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But there previously existed no clear mechanism for parents or caretakers to address this issue.

How it works

Sidra’s S-Cap response team consists of pediatric doctors, nurses, social service workers and psychiatrists. All have been trained to recognize signs of abuse, either mental or physical.

These staffers also know how to report crimes via the proper legal procedures. Sidra said they will also operate under privacy and confidentiality requirements.

The program runs through the hospital’s outpatient department, via referrals from schools, other public and private hospitals and healthcare centers.


Sidra outpatient clinic

It was developed following meetings with education, medical, legal and human rights experts last year.

In a statement, Sidra’s Division Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Khalid Mohamed Al Ansari, said:

“The S-CAP program cannot work in isolation – it is a collective responsibility. I firmly believe it is our duty to educate the public, work closely with stakeholders and build awareness of this pressing issue.

For such programs to be effective, it requires ongoing commitment from all partners to keep our children safe and to support with the healing process.”

Long time coming

Health officials have been pushing for Qatar to adopt a more comprehensive approach to child abuse for years.

They’ve said that cases often go unreported due to bureaucratic hurdles, insufficiently trained healthcare providers and a reluctance to break cultural taboos.

Alex Proimos/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

And families of victims have also complained about a lack of professional support services for such issues in Qatar.

However, some steps have been made to tackle abuse.

Last year for example, HMC said staff at the country’s Pediatric Emergency Centers have now been trained in identifying cases of abuse and violence against children.

“They will also ensure that the child and their family are directed to the right authorities so that the case is handled in the most humane and sensitive manner, without impacting on their rights or privacy,” the provider said.


Some of the SIDRA medical team carrying out an operation in Palestine


Some of the Sidra medical team carrying out an operation in Palestine in 2014.

Unable to remain on the sidelines as the humanitarian crisis in Palestine worsens, a medical team from Qatar has been traveling to the West Bank to treat patients.

There, they have extended their services to hundreds of people in need of urgent care. Many had been unable to receive the proper treatment due to severe shortages of both medical equipment and specialists.

Additionally, some have been unable to travel for care due to strict Israeli military blockades.

Photo of Nablus for illustrative purposes only.

Andrea Moroni/Flickr

Photo of Nablus for illustrative purposes only.

The Qatar doctors, nurses and medics all work for Sidra Medical and Research Center, and recently sat down with Doha News to share the details of a particularly fraught trip.

Nablus mission

In September 2015, the team went to work at the Rafidia Surgical Hospital in Nablus.

The city, which is about 50km north of Jerusalem, is home to three refugee camps.

It has been struggling in recent years with high unemployment, an inadequate water supply and crumbling schools and hospitals, according to rights groups.

So when the Sidra team arrived, patients were desperate for their help, they recalled. Dr. Jason Howard, Sidra’s Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, said:

“The police had to come in and take control, not because the people were unruly, but because they were so desperate to receive help and care, especially (those who traveled) from far other cities like Gaza, just to get treated.”

Lacking staff

During this mission, the team carried out several complex surgeries pro bono, and also helped to train the clinic’s permanent medical staff in those procedures.

Howard told Doha News that there were only two consultants working in the hospital, and only one pediatric orthopedic surgeon available in the entire territory.

Sidra mission in Palestine


Sidra mission in Palestine

He recalled back in 2014 finding an anesthesiologist only at the very last minute. “It really was the barakah (blessing) factor as they say,” he said.

The mission was organized and funded by a US-based NGO, but the team used their own annual leave to carry out the work.

‘It’s the only way I can help’

While Howard has been making annual trips to Nablus and Ramallah since 2014, this was Tracy Glenn’s second visit to the territory.

The Clinical Nurse Leader cried as she recounted her week-long experience at the hospital, saying that for many patients, treatment was a matter of life and death.

“When you think about how much money this would normally cost them (to have the surgery), and how desperately they need it, and how they’re thankful that we’re just there,” she said.

Another Sidra employee, Chief of Fetal Surgery Dr. Abdalla Zarroug, began volunteering in Palestine back in 2008.

Dr. Abdalla Zarroug of the Sidra team and a team of doctors in Gaza last month.


Dr. Abdalla Zarroug of the Sidra team and a team of doctors in Gaza last month.

“It was at that time that the Gaza War had begun, and I was chitchatting with a (doctor) friend of mine about how bad things are happening in this world, and that someone should do something about it,” he recalled.

He added:

“I’m not a politician to interfere, or a businessman able to donate money and rebuild. I’m only a physician and it’s the only way I can help.”

Hundreds of surgeries

The Sidra’s team’s operations included laparoscopic (keyhole) and spinal surgeries.

An “allied health team” that includes Occupational Therapist Scott Burns helped patients with their post-operative recovery, pain management and daily activities.

Sidra mission in Palestine


Sidra mission in Palestine

Their duties included assisting with rehabilitation, helping patients use the toilet, dressing wounds, feeding and stretching.

Without this kind of care, recovery can be extremely traumatizing for the patients, Burns told Doha News.

Equipment shortages

Howard said that as well as lacking well-trained staff, the hospital also did not have the money to buy the equipment needed for surgery.

He told Doha News that spinal implants usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are unavailable across most of Palestine.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Although his team traveled with all of the equipment they needed, the experience made him grateful to never have to worry about working without the basic tools of his trade:

“It is unfortunate how sometimes as doctors, we take for granted the little things that are not there – the medical plates, screws, pins, and spinal implants,” he said.


The team’s trip was organized by the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), a 25-year-old non-partisan organization that sends teams of volunteer surgeons and physicians on missions to the territory.

The NGO also send missions to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

Before sending a team of volunteers to an area, the organization first identifies patients who are in critical need of medical support.

Photo of hospital patient for illustrative purposes only.

Culturactiva SCG/Flickr

Photo of hospital patient for illustrative purposes only.

If there is a specific procedure required, PCRF will contact doctors who could fulfill a specific purpose.

When these individuals have confirmed, the charity starts arranging for permissions from the Ministry of Health in Palestine.

Once this is finalized, arrangements for the visas, hotel accommodation, plane tickets and transportation are then carried out.

Getting there

Getting to Nablus is a difficult process, even for an international team working with a US NGO.

Most commonly, doctors will fly into Jordan and cross the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge to Tel Aviv.

Because Israel controls the borders, doctors can’t get to Palestinian territories without that government’s approval.

Allenby/King Hussein Bridge

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Allenby/King Hussein Bridge

The Sidra team travelled to Nablus separately. Glenn, who is Canadian, flew on her own to the city of Amman.

She then took a taxi to reach Nablus, after being detained at the King Hussein bridge for over four hours.

Despite the trouble, Howard said Western doctors have a much easier time passing through the border.

“As a Canadian, I can breeze my way through check points, but it is much more difficult for doctors who come from the Middle East for example, and of course (for) the patients who travel long hours just to see us,” he said.

Training role

The Sidra team’s visit was not just about performing surgeries.

The mission also entailed teaching Palestinian doctors how to perform new operations independently, once the volunteer team had gone home.

“Palestine is the biggest jail in the world; the doctors there cannot go to conferences, cannot meet other surgeons or travel, and can only resort to Youtube to know how to do the surgeries,” Zarroug said.

And after leaving the territory, PCRF doctors regularly keep in touch with staff on the ground to follow up on patients.

Sidra doctors in Palestine


Sidra doctors in Palestine

They often view pictures of the patients’ wounds and receive updates on their recovery and well-being.

The feedback usually received from the patients and medical team in Palestine often reflects how thrilled they are with the results.

“It is all worth it when we see how happy they are,” Sidra Neurodiagnostic Manager Dr. Tara Stewart told Doha News.

Lasting impressions

For many on the Sidra team, the most memorable part of their trip involved the hospitality and generosity of the Palestinian people.

According to Burns, taxi drivers, kunafa makers and others refused to charge him and his colleagues for their services, as a token of appreciation for the work they did at the hospital.

Zarroug meanwhile paid tribute to Palestinians’ “unique dignity:”

“Palestinians have a true, unique dignity you can’t find anywhere in the world, and you’d be surprised to see how they went through war, and are still happy, hard working people who do not beg.”

Zarroug and Howard volunteer in the country on average twice a year, and their next trip is scheduled in January 2017.

“They feel like Arabs have forgotten about them, but they tell us that (us doctors) haven’t, and it’s what keeps them connected to the world,” Zarroug added.