Hospitals

Cleveland Clinic won’t expand past Abu Dhabi until it’s ‘right’

Dr. Delos Toby Cosgrove Cleveland ClinicCleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove said the health system won’t do any more international expansion until it gets it right at its often-delayed facility in Abu Dhabi.

Many of the elite health systems have designs on being global brands. But the big question for expanding beyond the United States is staffing, Cosgrove told attendees Tuesday at JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Cleveland Clinic has gone “all in” on that issue, he said.

Cosgrove said the system is sending up to 50 people a day into Abu Dhabi to assist with the hospital. But it’s clear from his remarks they haven’t figured out how to manage getting the right personnel into big-opportunity international markets that need medical personnel and training to treat their populations which are increasingly in need of healthcare.

The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi plan launched in 2006 with the idea it would open in three years. It had planned a late 2013 debut, but has been beset by additional delays. The latest reports indicate it won’t open fully until mid-2014

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Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said Tuesday that they will begin equipping the facility in April and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi will be “patient ready” by 2015.

In August, Cleveland Clinic said it was seeking 2,500 employees for the facility. Sheil said the primary staffing issue is nursing.

Cosgrove’s comments on Abu Dhabi were brief remarks in his wider speech about the future of the business of healthcare. The primary focus was on changes happening stateside, but he broke away to discuss Cleveland Clinic’s global expansion and related international topics.

When reflecting on thinking of a hospital as a brand, he said health systems need to consider whether they’ll be a “Walmart brand” or something much higher – with a cost difference that reflects that different approach.

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