• 4/7/2015
    Through its Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry Fellowship Program, the Psychiatry Department at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has significantly reduced the waiting time for evaluating and treating patients presenting with mental health issues at Hamad General Hospital’s (HGH) Emergency Department.

    The waiting time from the point of referral has been dramatically reduced as a direct result of the Fellowship Program, contributing significantly to improved patient care.

    “Reducing the waiting time was a major factor in our decision to form the Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry Fellowship Program, which is in line with the National Mental Health Strategy,” said Dr. Adel Zaraa, Senior Consultant and Chief of Psychiatry at HGH’s Emergency Department, and Director of the Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry Fellowship Program, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa.

    “The role of a consultation-liaison psychiatrist is to see medical, surgical and emergency patients who may also have co-existing mental health problems, and vice versa. We started the Program in June 2012 and expanded to the Emergency Department in May 2014,” said Dr. Zaraa.

    Mental illness can occur for a number of reasons and can affect anyone regardless of social circumstances, age or gender. Dr Zaraa emphasized that as with physical illness, mental illness is treatable and the key to treatment is early diagnosis and support.

    He explained that about 320 patients at the Emergency Department are evaluated for mental health problems every month. “We have been evaluating and making decisions on their treatment within one hour of the request by the medical or surgical team. This way, we have not only reduced the time that patients spend in the Emergency Department, but we have also reduced the waiting list for admissions to the Psychiatry Department by 18 percent.”

    Under the Program, Arab Board certified psychiatrists are trained in emergency room psychiatry, where they work with the treating medical or surgical team, and receive additional training abroad. Such a training program for emergency department psychiatrists is rare even in the United States (US), according to Dr. Zaraa, an eminent psychiatry expert who has practiced and taught extensively in the US and internationally. In his concurrent role as Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, he has recommended that medical students have a mandatory rotation in the Program as part of their psychiatry clerkship.

    “Our efforts to establish this Program in Qatar were recognized by the US-based Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine (APM) during its annual board meeting in November last year, where our team received a special award from the APM leadership,” said Dr. Zaraa, who during that time was also nominated by the American Medical Association to be an examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and was appointed as an editor for MedCrave Online Journal based in Chicago, US.

    The Program is part of a research study that Dr. Zaraa will be presenting this month at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Austria. He mentioned he is further engaged in several other research studies aimed at improving mental health services in Qatar, and commended the participation of his colleagues in the research, saying: “This testifies to the high commitment at HMC to providing evidence-based care and increasing patient satisfaction with our services.”

    The Consultation-Liaison Service is one of several specialist services offered by HMC’s Psychiatry Department. The Department provides diagnosis, treatment and support across the spectrum of mental illnesses, ranging from the mild to the severe and complex.