Mayo Clinic expands footprint to Middle East

The Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building
Pedestrians cross the street as they leave Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in Rochester in January 2016.
Alex Kolyer for MPR News 2016

Mayo Clinic is expanding its footprint to Abu Dhabi, a move that underscores its efforts to bring its brand and expertise to international patients.

In Abu Dhabi, Mayo will operate the Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City with Abu Dhabi Health Services Company. Mayo will be a shareholder in the new operating firm. The joint venture is for-profit. Mayo Clinic will invest revenue into practice, education and research.

The new 741-bed facility will offer critical care, labor and delivery services, outpatient and surgical care. It's expected to be fully operational by early 2020.

Mayo Clinic practice administration chair Roshanak Didehban said the facility is first meant to provide care for people living in the United Arab Emirates. But in the long term, she said, the hospital represents Mayo's efforts to expand its practice and brand internationally.

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"Our goal jointly is to move this facility over the next decade from what it is today to an international destination for complex and serious illness," Didehban said.

Mayo has been building an international reputation for years. About a decade ago, it began partnering with clinics and hospitals nationally and internationally, and now collaborates with providers on seven continents.

Meanwhile, Mayo announced a partnership earlier this year with Oxford University Clinic in London.

Mayo has a large number of international clients, and has long served people from the Middle East at its facility in Rochester, Minn.

But Didehban said that having a physical presence in the Middle East will help them serve more patients.

"We believe we will be able to connect with patients internationally through digital means," she said. "We also believe that we need to invest in a more physical presence in those parts of the world so that we can touch patients where they live."

At the end of the last century, Mayo started merging with smaller hospitals and clinics, largely in southeast Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

But in recent years, Mayo has started scaling back services at some of these facilities. Small clinics in rural areas have been hardest hit by these changes. Mayo has argued that they have trouble staffing rural facilities, and that there aren't enough patients to justify the cost of some services.

Didehban said that Mayo's ambitions to expand internationally are not connected to its decisions to scale back services locally.

"The changes that we make in the health system are [meant] to make sure that the volume of services and the staffing levels allow us to balance and provide the highest quality care possible within those communities," she said.

"This announcement doesn't change our commitment to transform the Mayo Clinic health system to provide that expertise to the communities of Minnesota."