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UAE responds to closure of Universal Hospital Abu Dhabi

DATE: 07-Sep-2019 Reported By: Khaleej Times

The owner who is currently in India could not be reached.

The Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi has closed down due to financial troubles, Khaleej Times has learnt. And according to its owner, the situation stemmed from an alleged internal "conspiracy to destroy" his reputation.

In an exclusive interview to Khaleej Times, the hospital's owner, Dr Shabeer Nellikode, said: "I have a threat in the country. One person is solely responsible for the situation I am in."

Without revealing the identity of the man, Dr Nellikode said he has met him 18 times to sort out the matter. "But he told me to my face that he will destroy me and the hospital," he said over the phone from Kerala, India.

According to Nellikode, the hospital's finances tumbled when insurance payment was blocked for more than four months starting May this year. "We lost around Dh100 million. That was the beginning of all our problems."

The Department of Health Abu Dhabi confirmed that the hospital was closed down upon the owner's request. "Following a request from its owner, Universal Hospital was approved to shut down. All patients were moved promptly to alternative hospitals and provided with full support for the transition of their treatment," read the DoH statement issued to Khaleej Times.

An informed source at the hospital said they stopped accepting in-patients since last week.

It is understood that the 200-bed speciality hospital is not operational anymore. The hospital was once temporarily shut down by the Department of Health in April this year for failing to meet certain health and safety standards.

When Khaleej Times visited the two towers at the old Airport road on Friday, facilities looked deserted without any employees. Sources close to the management said the owner could not arrange funds to tide over the financial crisis.

Owner 'trying his best'

Dismissing rumours that he has run away from the country, Nellikode said he is still trying his best to reopen the hospital. "I am an honest, hardworking man who has only helped people. I belong to Abu Dhabi. Why would I run away when I believe my future belongs there?"

He claimed he was pushed to a corner and forced to ask for a shutdown, when a small team within the hospital started to conspire against him. "Cases were filed against me and I had to protect myself. I know I can make a comeback but I first need to deal with the threat. No matter how much money I inject into the hospital, haters will try to destroy me again."

Nellikode said he wanted to assure all his employees that he will settle their dues. "My fight is for the people to whom I owe money. I will fight for my team that has stood by me. I am positive that I will be able to restructure and restart soon."

Salaries unpaid for months

It is understood that over 500 staff members of the hospital are facing uncertainty due to the sudden closure of the hospital.

Those who spoke to Khaleej Times said their salaries have not been paid for months.

"My salary for four months is pending. We knew the hospital has some financial issues, but we're hoping that things would stabilise," said one employee, who requested anonymity.

A doctor who joined the hospital a few years ago said he was also not paid for months.

"We don't know what is next. It is a difficult place to be in without knowing whether you have the job or not."

Many employees whom Khaleej Times spoke to said there was no official communication from the management regarding the closure.

"We were told by our supervisors over WhatsApp on September 3 not to come to work starting September 4. We are sitting at home wondering what to do," said a nurse.

When asked about the pending dues of the employees, the health authority said "remittances for hospital employees do not fall within our mandate".