The Medical Tourism Association was delighted and honored to host a Familiarization “FAM” Tour to the beautiful country of Jordan. Ten delegates, including medical tourism facilitators and insurance company agents from Canada, the UK, India and the United States were in attendance.
The delegates all flew Royal Jordanian Airlines, the country’s official airline. The emphasis on professionalism and top of the line customer service was evident during our flight. The fluency of the flight attendants in both Arabic and English was very impressive. This is certainly of great value when considering the needs of travelling patients.
Upon our arrival to Queen Alia International Airport, the group was greeted by warm smiles and the incomparable Jordanian hospitality that we would encounter throughout the duration of the FAM Tour.
While in Amman, the delegates stayed at the Landmark Hotel, located in the diplomatic center and business district, very close to the Citadel and the Roman Amphitheatre, some of Amman’s most popular historical sites.
Due to its geographic location at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, Jordan has been a key player in trade between the east and west for centuries. The country of Jordan is located in Southwest Asia spanning the southern part of the Syrian Desert down to the Gulf of Aqaba. It shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, the West Bank and Israel to the west, and Saudi Arabia to the east and south.
It shares the Dead Sea with Israel, and the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Much of Jordan is covered by desert, particularly the Arabian Desert. The northwestern area is occupied by the Jordan River and is regarded as part of the Fertile Crescent.
Jordan has played an essential role in Roman, Biblical, early Islamic and Crusader periods. During its history, Jordan has seen numerous civilizations, including ancient eastern civilizations as the Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian empires. Jordan was part of Pharaonic Egypt for a period of time, and spawned the native Nabatean civilization, which left rich archaeological remains in Petra. There was also great influence from countries in the west, such as the Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Turkish empires.
Since its independence in 1946, the capital city of Amman has continued its evolution as a modern commercial metropolis combining the old and new – the best of both worlds. Amman is located in the northwest region of the country and offers numerous museums, such as the Jordan Archeological Museum, Jordan Folklore Museum and art galleries like the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts as well as other exquisite cultural centers.
Excellent accommodations, gourmet restaurants, quaint coffee shops, and contemporary shopping centers are also found throughout this picturesque city. The beauty of Amman lies in its scenic archeological backdrops such as the Citadel (al-Qala’a), which is located on a mountaintop giving a prospective of the city’s astonishing history, while providing stunning views of the region.
Jordan is a modern Arab nation with a population of 6,342,948 people. The Jordanian society is urbanized and very ethnically diverse. The official language spoken is Arabic, but English is widely spoken and understood throughout the country. Jordan is unique in its close relations with the West and is a key player in the global political scene.
Jordanian cuisine predominately consists of exquisite Middle Eastern cooking but the insertion of fresh yogurt and cheese adds a twist of exclusivity to the menu. The FAM Tour delegates were welcomed with a typical Jordanian Mazzeh, which includes humus, kube and tabouleh, accompanied by Khobez, large flatbread served warm and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
There was also a selection of chicken, beef and lamb kabobs as well as Mahshi Waraq, vine leaves stuffed with rice, minced meat and spices. Arabic coffee is generally served following dinner. It tends to be very strong and is served in small cups with plenty of coffee grounds at the bottom. Dessert was made up of Baklava, pastry filled with nuts or honey and Kanafa pastry filled with nuts or goats cheese.
The Kingdom of Jordan
Our agenda included a visit to the Royal Court to meet with Royal Court Chief Eng. Naser Louzi to discuss the growth of medical tourism in Jordan and the role of the Royal Court. His Excellency Naser Louzi was extremely accommodating and welcomed all questions and thoughts from the delegates representing a clear commitment and support from the Royal Court in making Jordan a top destination for medical tourism.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a Constitutional Monarchy, a system of government in which a monarch shares power with a constitutionally organized government. The monarch may be the de facto head of state or a purely ceremonial leader. The constitution allocates the rest of the government’s power to the legislature and judiciary.
His late Majesty King Hussein bin Talal is considered the father of modern Jordan and will always be remembered as a leader who guided his country through strife and turmoil to become an oasis of peace, stability and moderation in the Middle East. Known to his people as Al-Malik Al-Insan “The Humane King”, King Hussein established a legacy, which promises to guide Jordan for many years to come.
King Hussein’s commitment to democracy, civil liberties and human rights has helped pave the way in making Jordan a model state for the region. The kingdom is internationally recognized as having the most exemplary human rights record in the Middle East, while recent reforms have allowed Jordan to resume its irreversible drive to democratization. Today the National Charter, along with the Jordanian Constitution, serves as a guideline for democratic institutionalization and political pluralism in the country.
Since his ascension to the throne in February 1999, King Abdullah II has continued his late father’s commitment to creating a strong and positive moderating role for Jordan within the Arab region and the world by institutionalizing democratic and political pluralism in Jordan.
He has exerted extensive effort to ensuring sustainable levels of economic growth and social development aimed at improving the standard of living of all Jordanians. He is also working towards modernizing Jordan’s information technology and educational systems. King Abdullah II has also been involved in enacting the necessary legislations that guarantee women a full role in the Kingdom’s socio-economic and political life.
King Abdullah II married Queen Rania on June 10th, 1993. The Royal Couple have two sons, Prince Hussein and Prince Hashem and two daughters, Princess Iman and Princess Salma.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah states, “Primarily, my duty is to partner His Majesty in his efforts to improve the standard of living of all Jordanians. While respecting our traditions, we are determined to build Jordan into a modern civil society and model for the region by ensuring sustainable levels of economic growth and social development.
In addition, I work in areas related to child protection and family safety, women’s empowerment, and the creation of opportunities for youth, as well as culture and tourism. Daunting? Yes. Impossible? No. In fact, such challenges energize me.”
When speaking about the role and empowerment of Jordanian women, Queen Rania adds, “The best advertisement for empowering women is an empowered woman.” Not only does she serve as an exemplary figure in Jordan, but also works arduously to increase gender equality in the classrooms and to create greater employment opportunities for all women in Jordan. Through its leadership, the Royal Family provides its people with the foundation, support and inspiration for Jordan’s climate of ingenuousness, tolerance and compassion.
World Class Tourism
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, Petra is a breathtaking unique city, carved completely into the sheer rock of a mountain by Nabateans, an industrious Arab civilization. The huge rocks are colorful, mostly pink, and the entrance to the ancient city is through a 1.25 km, roughly three quarters of a mile of narrow gorge in the mountain called the Siq.
The city is filled with various structures, all are carved into rock of which its most famous monument without a doubt is the Treasury or Al Khazneh, which is located at the end of the Siq. It was used as an import junction for silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India, and Southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. This towering façade was used in the final sequence of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
The FAM Trip delegates were fortunate enough to spend an entire day touring Petra. They had the option of hiring a horse or horse-drawn carriage from the main entrance through the Siq to the Treasury. Once inside the Treasury, the group was led on a camelback ride through the magnificent city of Petra. Other major sites of interest in Petra include the Monastery, the Roman Theater, the Royal Tombs, and the High Place of Sacrifice.
THE DEAD SEA
In the Book of Genesis, God refers to the Jordan River Valley around the Dead Sea as the “Garden of the Lord”, and it is believed to be the location of the Garden of Eden. The Dead Sea holds a historical and spiritual legacy as it is said to be the site of five biblical cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar (Bela). Today, most of its landscape has remained unchanged since the ancient times.
The benefits from Dead Sea bathing are attributed to a natural tar in the water and also to high level of minerals that may affect the rate of skin cell growth. Dead Sea mud is considered helpful in two ways: the dark mud helps UV light get absorbed and mud packs stimulate blood circulation around joints affected by Psoriatic Arthritis. A rare chemical composition of Chloride, Bicarbonate, Sulphate, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium bestows the Dead Sea with its substantial curative properties.
The water of the Dead Sea is effective in healing allergies, psoriasis, eczema and purulent rashes. It also aids blood circulation and improves one’s metabolism by relaxing the nervous system. It cleanses the skin and improves its outer appearance and its elasticity.
Mineral mud from the Dead Sea heals wounds, and helps slow down the all around aging process of the skin. Dead Sea mud is said to ease joint pain by alleviating arthritis, bone and cartilage inflammation, myelitis, neuritis, rheumatism, psychological stress, fatigue and sleeplessness.
The FAM Trip delegates stayed at the exquisite Kempinski Hotel Ishtar where they were able to spend a day immersed in this magical mud and floating in the buoyant warm and salty water of the Dead Sea.
Without a doubt this is the ultimate destination for health and wellness and is being offered as part of the package for patients seeking treatment in Jordan.
Leadership in Healthcare
The commitment to quality and excellence is evident through the emphasis on healthcare accreditation. The delegates were extremely impressed to find that all of the hospitals on the tour were internationally accredited though the Joint Commission International as well as through the Health Care Accreditation Council, a national accreditation system.
Jordan’s Minister of Health, Nayef Al-Fayez welcomed the group of delegates and explained the ethical obligation to treat international patients with the same commitment to excellence as the local population. He expressed that his priority was to offer his people high quality healthcare, working very closely with both the private and public sectors of healthcare to ensure that Jordan remains the exemplary “Medical Hub” of the Middle East, attracting patients from around the world.
The country’s competitive pricing and high quality health services have been attracting regional patients from other Middle Eastern and North African countries including Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan for quite some time now.
Jordan’s current medical tourism sector revenues are estimated to reach $650,000,000 (USD) by the end of 2009 and the country is keen to reach its ambitious target of $1,000,000,000 (USD) by 2012. More than 250,000 patients from 84 countries were treated there last year, according to a recent Private Hospitals Association study.
Jordan’s physicians and surgeons are all proficient in the English language as medical school is taught solely in English throughout the country. These surgeons set themselves apart and excel through training, practicing or affiliations with top institutions in the United States such as Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Abdallah Al-Bashir, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Jordan Hospital greeted the group alongside Hashem Irshaid, Quality and Medical Tourism Consultant. Jordan Hospital is a 300-bed comprehensive state-of-the-art Academic Medical Center with a mission to improve the health of its local community and the world by setting the standard of excellence in medical education, research and clinical care.
Along with its JCI Accreditation, Jordan Hospital is also accredited through HCAC. Jordan Hospital has a partnership with George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University, in which they interchange medical students for a three month rotation period and faculty for both institutions present for one another’s medical communities.
As a Trauma Center, Jordan Hospital is equipped with a Helipad that enables emergency transports, generating a very large number of local and regional referrals. Other specialties for which Jordan Hospital is a leader in Medical Tourism include Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Urology and Cardiology.
During our visit FAM Trip delegates had the pleasure of dining with Dr. Imad A. Alhaddad, Cardiovascular Consultant for Jordan Hospital. Dr. Alhaddad shared that he trained at Johns Hopkins University, ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report “Honor Roll”, where he was an Associate Professor for 16 years before returning to Jordan.
When asked why he left one of the best Cardiology Departments in the world to start over, Dr. Alhaddad responded that his initial goal was to attain the best education possible, but his ultimate goal was to bring that knowledge and training back to his people. This is the resounding theme for almost all healthcare specialists in Jordan.
Dr. Fawzi Al-Hammouri, CEO & General Manager and Chairman of Private Hospital Association welcomed the delegates into The Specialty Hospital alongside Dr. Riad Sharqawi, Dr. Zaki Qulaghassi and a very knowledgeable team of professionals that tended to every question and concern that was brought up by the delegates.
The Specialty Hospital is a 250-bed multispecialty equipped facility with some of the latest technology, such as an Open MRI, a 3T MRI and 64-Slice CT Scan. The hospital has 10 Operating Rooms with state-of-the-art technology and fully equipped telemedicine facilities.
The Specialty Hospital serves as a teaching hospital in six specialties: General Surgery, Gynecology, Pediatrics, General Medicine, Radiology and Anesthesia. Hospital services include all the general services in medicine and surgery as well as specialized services for laparoscopic surgery, cardiac surgery, joint replacement and transplant surgery, such as kidney and corneal transplants.
The I.V.F. Genetics Lab, the result of a medical cooperation between Germany and Jordan is highly equipped to discover and treat the causes of infertility and genetic diseases. The Center for Hyperbaric O2 Therapy is the first specialized center of its kind in Jordan.
As the first hospital in Jordan to receive the King Abdullah II Award for excellence, not once, but twice in a row, The Specialty Hospital is certainly among the elite hospitals in the world with both JCI and HCAC accreditations as well as ISO 9002 and ISO 9001.
The Specialty Hospital currently treats patients from Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Palestine and Iraq, but seeks to expand its medical tourism market globally. The hospital has 36 Royal Luxury Suites and a Specialized Concierge Office, which offers services that include, but are not limited to arranging airport transfers, coordinating accommodations as well as organizing tours of Jordan for patients and their companions.
Istishari Hospital is another Jordanian Hospital with a commitment to excellence. Most impressive was Istishari Hospital’s Infection Control Program which is devoted to identifying and in turn reducing the risks of acquiring and transmitting infections among patients, staff, health care professionals, contract workers, volunteers, students and visitors.
There is a designated Infection Prevention and Control Committee in place which ensures that all measures and precautions are taken into consideration on a daily basis. The infection control program is based on current scientific knowledge, accepted practice guidelines, and applicable law and regulations.
An impressive level of technology shows that Istishari Hospital is set to be a leader in the medical tourism platform in its region and worldwide.
Overlooking a park and mosque of the Jordanian University in Telal Al-Ali area northern part of the Jordanian capital, Al-Essra Hospital distinguishes itself by providing its patients with advanced medical equipment and excellent highly qualified medical staff and specialists.
Offering 160 beds Al-Essra Hospital has top of the line accommodations. The Arab Patients Office concentrates on the Arab patients from neighboring countries who receive treatment in Al-Essra Hospital, extending their services to include organizing tourism trips for the patients and their companions during their stay in Jordan.
Al-Essra is JCI Accredited and its specialties geared toward medical tourism patients include general surgery as well as IVF and fertility treatments.
KING HUSSEIN CANCER CENTER
The King Hussein Cancer Center is a 180-bed comprehensive cancer center that offers an array of services and procedures aimed at cancer diagnosis, treatment, and management. KHCC prides itself in offering its patients state-of-the-art technology that includes CT Scanners, PET/CT Scanners, MRIs, Dual Head Gamma Cameras and Linear Accelerators, to name a few. Providing surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, pediatric oncology, palliative care, pain management and more, KHCC is second to none in its class in Jordan and is internationally recognized as a leader in providing effective cancer treatment through advanced technology, professional expertise and an exceptional level of personalized care.
King Hussein Cancer Center has two JCI Accreditations; the first one is a general one certifying that the hospital has met the international healthcare quality standards for patient care and organization management. Most recently it received an Oncology-Specific Accreditation also awarded through JCI. It is the only center in the world outside of the United States to have this specialized accreditation.
“This Specialized JCI Accreditation looks at protocols and how we deliver care to the patient, what kind of therapy we give and how we use the data from the therapy to improve patient outcomes. It requires more physician involvement than the general JCI, which looks at systems, safety regulations and administration,” explained Dr. Marmoud Sarhan, MD, CPE, Director General and CEO of KHCC, and Professor and Director of the Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplantation Program.
Dr. Sarhan confirmed that KHCC uses Clinical Pathway Guidelines (CPG), a system that ensures treatment is consistent. “If you suffer from stage 2 breast cancer, for instance, this ensures the way you treat them is the same each time – it is simply consistent.” Each disease has a CPG; breast cancer, brain cancer, infant leukemia, chronic leukemia and so on. The clinical team follows these guidelines, which minimize variation, and ensure consistent high quality.
Following this analysis, the protocols can be adjusted to better suit the local population and environment. “There are many factors that can influence the different outcomes on different population groups using the same treatment protocol, such as genetics and nutrition,” says Dr. Sarhan.
Emphasis on Quality ~ Health Care Accreditation Council (HCAC)
May Abu Hamadia, CEO of HCAC, the Jordanian International Accreditation Agency created by USAID enlightened the group and solidified the country’s commitment to quality and sustainability in healthcare services.
In 2007, through a collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the United States Agency for International Aid and Development USAID, the Health Care Accreditation Council HCAC became the first Accreditation Agency of its kind in the world to show this type of initiation and commitment to the development of quality improvement performance measures and the delivery of quality improvement programs. HCAC operates under standards which are accredited by the International Society for Quality in Health Care (ISQua).
Within its mission, HCAC sets out to establish the highest level of quality and safety in healthcare services through the development, revision and solidifying compliance by classifying internationally established health and facility standards and yielding accreditation of healthcare facilities and program services that meet the standards and foster the continuous improvement of quality in health care services for a period of two years.
All healthcare facilities and programs accredited under HCAC operate at the optimum level of internationally accepted healthcare standards, resulting in positive clinical outcomes, customer satisfaction, and enable healthcare professionals to measure themselves against these standards and monitor improvements using quality improvement methods.
Weaknesses in the existing structure are identified, evaluated and different strategies are developed in order to prevail over them and progress towards excellence in hospitals. This type of excellence is only achieved through the commitment to continuing education. These standards were developed based on existing standards and best practices in place in Jordan and internationally. HCAC will be the model of quality standards setting and surveying for other countries to emulate.
The FAM Tour proved to be a huge success and an incomparable networking opportunity for international providers and delegates, all members of the Medical Tourism Association.