Sayde Maalim Nassar

Executive Director of “Oasis de Vie” Hospital

“We combined meticulous care, comprehensive attention and prudent management and thus achieved success”

Oasis de Vie is an oasis of life, hope, and security for many health conditions that require medical and psychological care, necessitated by post-hospitalization situations or certain exceptional cases. The ‘Oasis de Vie- Continuum of Healthcare Center’ (ODV), established by the Greek Catholic Welfare Association of Beirut and its Suburbs, works on receiving patients of all ages and from various regions, and the elderly who need rest, recuperation and recovery. What’s new with this center today? How was it founded, developed, and how did it overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis in Lebanon and the Beirut port blast? And what’s the secret behind its success? These are questions answered by the Executive Director of “Oasis de Vie”, Sayde Maalim Nassar, in an exclusive interview with “Hospitals” magazine.

How would you describe the “Oasis de Vie” hospital or center?

“Oasis de Vie” is a specialized caregiving hospital center. It was established by the Greek Catholic Welfare Association of Beirut and its Suburbs, headed by Mr. Roger Nasnas. The center is located in Ashrafieh, central Beirut, and was inaugurated on the first of July, 2019, under the patronage of the President and with the blessings of the Patriarch of the Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, Youssef Absi. This resulted from a belief that Lebanon would recover and that we must cooperate to build a better society. Those responsible of the association collaborated to complete this project. The center was established on land donated as a gift from the late Mrs. Mary Youssef Aftimos, widow of the late lawyer, Mr. Nemr Heba. The rationale behind its establishment was that while Beirut has many large hospitals, there is no complementary hospital to them, even though the waiting list for patients to get a bed was long. Hence, the decision was made to establish the “Oasis de Vie – subacute healthcare center”, the first of its kind in Lebanon. The center’s vision is to build a cohesive society, and our mission is to provide a comprehensive range of health services to patients in need of supportive care and to those with non-acute illnesses. Ashrafieh was the chosen city to establish the center, for there, it would be surrounded by university hospitals.

What comprises the hospital and what do its sections include?

“Oasis de Vie” hospital consists of 16 floors; six are subterranean and nine are above ground, covering a built area of 14,630 square meters. It includes a church, a reception lobby, 92 rooms, and 131 beds distributed across rooms with lounges, single rooms, and double rooms. Additionally, it features a physical therapy and rehabilitation center, a social club, a floor dedicated to Alzheimer’s patients, a dental clinic, outpatient clinics, a hairdressing salon, a cafeteria and parking spaces.

Patients can visit the club to watch movies, play table games, dance, enjoy entertainment, and participate in other activities. I want to highlight that “Oasis de Vie” doesn’t compete with hospitals but complements them. We accept patients who still require medical care but don’t necessarily need to remain in a hospital. They come to us, and this includes patients of all ages as well as some elderly cases.

What are the main tasks of the center, and what medical conditions does it cater to?

The center focuses on caring for those affected by non-severe or moderately severe diseases, palliative care, taking care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, caring for patients in the final stages of their lives, elderly care, and social care. Family members who live alone often visit the social club at the center to spend their day, have lunch, and then return to their homes in the evening. This service provides this group of people with psychological comfort and meets some of their needs. We also offer all kinds of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

It is worth noting that the members of the charity believe that “Oasis de Vie” is more than just a specialized healthcare center. It is a symbol of triumph over adversity in the heart of the crisis that surrounds us. It represents the evolution of the association’s ambitions, which has been involved in social, health, and charitable activities and projects since its inception. Furthermore, the vice president of the association and the CEO of Oasis de Vie, Mr. Zaffer Shawi, emphasizes that in this center, we put forth all our efforts and capabilities to serve as a haven that provides patients with everything they aspire to in terms of healing, happiness and comfort.

How would you describe the public’s response to the center, especially since some, given the challenging circumstances, now avoid going to the hospital unless it is a critical case or an emergency?

The response to “Oasis de Vie” has been very positive. We’ve sensed this through the satisfaction of the patients and their families. A patient who needs the center’s services feels as if they are at home, not in a hospital. We are working towards obtaining accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI) in the United States and the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon regarding the quality and safety of the services provided at the center.

You launched in 2019, meaning your inception faced the challenges of the COVID pandemic, the economic situation and the Beirut port explosion, yet you succeeded and continue to achieve more. How did you manage this?

When the hospital sector was focused on the COVID pandemic, allocating hospital spaces for those affected, the “Oasis de Vie” center conducted COVID tests before approving any patient’s admission to ensure everyone’s safety. Every moment of life is precious, and its quality might be more important than its quantity; hence the existence of “Oasis de Vie”. Despite the challenges of COVID, the economic situation, and the port explosion, our ambition was immense, despair was prohibited, and optimism was present. We gathered our efforts and decided to continue, combining meticulous care, comprehensive attention and wise management. We succeeded and overcame the crisis.

An important aspect to note is that we focused on raising awareness in a society that previously rejected the idea of placing Alzheimer’s patients in a hospital, deeming it akin to abandoning them. Today, however, it’s seen as showing more concern for their well-being. We did continue, but it was at a significant loss. Board members, especially Mr. Roger Nasnas and Mr. Zaffer Shawi, sacrificed their time, effort and personal finances, supplemented by some generous donors. It even reached the point where assets had to be liquidated to overcome the crisis, and we overcame it. One of the association’s main goals is to support those who need our care but lack the financial means. The association assists them, as helping is one of its main objectives. But to help, you must be able to. We strive to ensure this: a balance between sustainability, offering the best services, and supporting our patients.

How would you describe the turnout at the hospital after overcoming major crises, mainly since the entire country has not yet fully emerged from them?

The turnout is improving daily, though it has yet to reach our aspirations. We are opening new floors and continuously expanding our services, even if sometimes we have to open one floor and close another depending on the number and nature of patient cases. Crisis management is different from regular management. My over thirty years of hospital management experience have taught me to handle tough circumstances, face challenges, and make the right decisions to succeed. Mainly since our inception, we have focused on the quality and safety of our services. We’ve signed a contract with JCI, and the specifications list includes around a thousand standards. Our staff and doctors are working hard to qualify as an accredited hospital. This gives patients confidence in our hospital, and we are proud to complement the work of larger hospitals.

At the end of the interview, Mrs. Nassar insists that we take a tour of the hospital, from the entrance that resembles a hotel entrance to all floors and departments. This is to observe its architectural and hotel-like arrangement on the one hand, and to see the high-quality patient care, comfort, and psychological and health security on the other.

 She concludes by emphasizing the unique “Oasis de Vie” vision and its comprehensive services, stating: “There are centers that provide a portion of what we offer, and others provide a different portion, but there is no one that offers everything we provide in terms of services at Oasis de Vie.”

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