Dubai to open first skin bank in Arab region

Excess skin will be preserved according to international standards and will be used for burn patients or trauma patients.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 30, 2018

Dubai is in the process of setting up a skin bank, the first in the region, which will be used in grafting of burn cases and other patients in need.

In an interview, Dr Younis Kazim, CEO of the newly set up Dubai Healthcare Corporation (DHC) under the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said that the process has been initiated by doctors from the plastic surgery department at Rashid Hospital and a feasibility study is currently going on.

'We should be ready with the bank by mid of 2019,' said Dr Kazim.

Besides the skin bank, the DHA will also set up a Cardiology Centre and Cancer Centre by 2020, all in time for the Expo 2020.

Plans are also afoot for expansion of Rashid Hospital into Rashid Medical Complex.

For the skin bank, excess skin will be preserved according to international standards and will be used for burn patients or trauma patients in cases where skin grafting is not possible or there is not enough skin of the patient to cover the wounds.

Burn patients with big raw areas are prone to infection, which may cause severe internal organ damage and can lead to death.

Covering the raw areas as soon as possible with skin protects the patients and stabilises the patient's condition so that the patient can recover faster with less co-morbidities.

In the first phase, the DHA will establish a network with public hospitals in Dubai to obtain skin donations and in later stages the private sector will be included.

The consent of the person donating the skin will be obtained first.

The DHA has already sought and obtained approval from the Islamic Affairs Department on the subject as per Shariah rules and regulations.

A skin bank is similar to an organ transplant bank, said Dr Kazim.

'Until now we have been throwing away perfectly good skin that could have been used. For example in cases of bariatric surgery, sometimes, people lose up to 100 kilos, and this extra skin, instead of being thrown away, will now be kept in incubators for depending on its need for between 20 days, three months or more,' said the doctor.

He said that the skin - taken only from healthy people - will be used in grafting for burn patients, in some skin cancers and in other cases, where ever needed.

'We will be in a position to export skin to private hospitals whenever required,' he said.

He said the idea was simple as compared to organ transplant.

'All skin grafts are carried out in Rashid Hospital of which 90 per cent are burn cases,' he said. Till now, the hospital has been using synthetic skin to treat such cases.

Expansion of insurance coverage

The department is also studying ways to expand health insurance coverage to include mental health as well.

'Once the skin bank is set up, we will consider including it in the insurance scheme,' said Dr Kazim.

Talking about the need for a wider insurance coverage to include stroke patients and those with mental health issues, Dr Kazim said that the main idea was to protect the patients. Many patients who suffer from stroke, cancer, heart attacks or accident cases spend a long time in hospitals, which can cause trauma and affect them mentally.

'We want to protect such patients and insurance cover is being re-evaluated in such cases,' he said.

Long-term patients

Currently there are 116 long-term patients in the DHA hospitals, out of whom 70 patients are in Rashid Hospital whereas 40 patients are in Dubai hospital and six in Latifa hospital.

'They will all be transferred to long-term care facilities, which are equipped to treat these cases and are located next to the Elderly Happiness Centre in Mamzar,' said Dr Kazim.

'This will reduce cost on hospitals as reports say that these patients can be discharged from the hospital since they are stable, are not in chronic stage of their individual disease or condition, need long-term care by nursing staff and don't need to be monitored by physicians on a daily basis,' he said, adding that by doing this, the corporation will be able to open up spaces for patients who are in desperate need of acute care and medical treatment.

A specialised committee will study the current situation on a case-by-case basis and those who require more than two weeks' stay at the hospital might be transferred to the centre, he said.

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