Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Psychiatry Department has formally opened a new mental health service at Al Wakra Hospital (AWH), thereby increasing access to specialised mental health care for patients across the hospital’s medical, surgical and emergency departments.

Senior Consultant Psychiatrist leading the implementation at AWH, Dr Mohammad Ali, said:

We started setting up our mental health service at AWH in January 2015 to serve the community in Al Wakra. The service, which provides consultation across departments to patients who may also have other existing conditions, is staffed by a multidisciplinary team consisting of a senior consultant psychiatrist, an old age consultant psychiatrist, a specialist psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, a social worker, an occupational therapist and administrative staff.’

The bulk of the mental health team’s everyday duties include covering AWH’s Emergency Department on a 24/7 basis. The service also runs an outpatient clinic twice a week. Dr Ali said:

We see on average 200 patients per month across all medical specialties, and the most common referrals to our service involve patients with depression, but we see patients who are experiencing a range of mental illnesses which we are now able to assess and begin treatment for on location at AWH. All cases referred to our mental health service are assessed on the same day based on clinical priorities. We also plan to expand our mental health services further to include home visits and community-based care. Expanding the range of settings where we can provide specialized care will allow us to provide treatment based on individual patient need. It will also contribute towards changing negative attitudes towards mental health issues and increasing the number of people who have access to the care they need, in line with the National Mental Health Strategy.’

Dr Ali emphasised that mental illness can occur for a number of reasons and can affect anyone regardless of social circumstances, age or gender, and that it can be treated just like any physical illness.

The key is increasing early detection and support for patients, which is a focus of the Psychiatry Department as it develops its services, including plans to initiate specialised clinics for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, obese patients, and patients with other life-affecting conditions. These types of conditions are often linked to occurrences of anxiety or depression, which are both common and treatable mental illnesses.

According to Dr Ali, if a person is concerned that they may be experiencing mental illness, they should make an appointment to see a primary/family physician or seek a referral from their current specialist doctor. “rimary healthcare physicians are trained to be able to treat some types of mental illnesses and where they are not they can make the appropriate referral. HMC’s Psychiatry Department is the main provider of specialist mental health care in the country and can help people with all types of mental illness, ranging from the mild to the severe.

HMC has been the principal public healthcare provider in Qatar for over three decades. HMC manages eight hospitals, incorporating five specialist hospitals and three community hospitals. The Corporation also manages the National Ambulance Service as well as home and residential care, all accredited by Joint Commission International. HMC is leading the development of the region’s first academic health system and is committed to building a legacy of healthcare expertise in Qatar. The Corporation collaborate with partners who are key experts in Qatar and beyond, including Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Partners Healthcare, Boston.