TBY talks to Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, Director General of the Dubai Health Authority, on the vision behind the Emirate’s health strategy and the local healthcare sector.
TBY The Dubai Health Authority was established in 2007. What was the vision behind the establishment of the authority at that stage?
QADHI SAEED AL MUROOSHID In 2007, the Ruler of Dubai decided to create the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). His vision was that the healthcare sector was growing, and that there was a need for a regulatory body to lay down a strategy for the whole of Dubai, not only for public hospitals. We had to establish the Dubai strategic healthcare plan, and we had to establish a partnership with the private sector through our regulatory arm. We also had to prepare a funding model that would be suitable for Dubai. The Emirate needed a plan regarding regulation, funding, strategy, service provisioning, expanding services, and partnerships, and we needed to focus on educating the new generation. Prior to this, the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS), which was created in 1973, was the functioning authority that almost exclusively focused on health service delivery. Therefore, the DHA was created, in June 2007, by Law 13, with an expanded vision to include strategic oversight for the complete health sector in Dubai and enhance private sector engagement.
How would you say the healthcare market has evolved in Dubai over the past few years?
The UAE, and Dubai especially, is striving to reach higher standards in security, health, education, and business. The expectations of people moving here to live, work, or just visit are high, and we have to make sure that our health services meet those expectations. In 2007 we began a lot of projects, and we are still planning many more. We have realized that we need public-private partnerships. It is not only with money that you can develop hospitals; you also need knowledge and experience. We are expecting two new hospitals to open in Dubai in 2012. In the beginning of 2001 there were less than seven private hospitals, and today we are talking about a total of 20 new hospitals. Clinic numbers are rising, and professionals are moving to Dubai. We have an excellent talent pool of healthcare professionals in Dubai. The people of Dubai deserve the best quality, and this is an aim we are realizing through our regulatory arm to make sure the industry is regulated to benefit the people. We have very good communication with the private sector and consult with it directly regarding new regulations. We need to give the people of Dubai the ability to choose and compare services. We also want to create a new market for insurance companies. Health care is a huge business when it comes to insurance. I believe that health care has tremendously evolved over the years, and given all the existing parameters and our future plans, I see more progress in the years to come.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
One major project involves electronic medical records (EMR). This project will digitize all medical records, and any doctor will be able to see a patient’s medical history via computer. We will be able to control our medical stocks, facilitate a paperless environment, and provide patients and healthcare practitioners with complete online access to medical records. You will be able to walk into a clinic, input your information into the system, and your complete medical history will be displayed—this will be applicable even when you travel abroad. In terms of other projects, we are very happy with the progress on the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, which is the first specialized pediatric hospital in the country. It is a fully dedicated, unique facility for children below the age of 16. In addition to focusing on such specialized projects, we will continue to pay attention to primary health care. We believe that primary health care is our frontline. We have an annual plan to add one health center each year to our existing network of 14 primary health centers spread across the various geographical areas of the Emirate. These are just a number of the things we have in the pipeline.
What are the key investment opportunities for partners looking to come to Dubai?
There are a lot of opportunities in Dubai in healthcare investment. The challenges that investors sometimes face with regards to ownership or regulation have been resolved here. The DHA works closely with Dubai Healthcare City to assist investors. We are also working with DuBiotech, which is a lucrative project regarding pharmaceutical company research. The pharmaceutical industry is very promising, and it is a big business. With the infrastructure and services that Dubai has in hand, we need to work with it to see what challenges need to be faced, because we believe that Dubai is the best place to be a hub for the distribution of medicine in the region. To achieve this we have to work very hard to make sure that we are enacting the right regulations for the registration of drugs and other similar issues. When it comes to clinics we are very happy that we have among us top professionals from Europe, the US, and the region. They are happy with the environment here both professionally and personally. Access to Dubai allows people to fly in on a daily basis to do business and then fly back. For a lot of people in the region, the best point for them to meet is Dubai.
What is your outlook for the healthcare industry in 2012?
In 2012 our focus will be on primary health care. The plan is to make sure that we improve the quality and support our people and family physicians in the primary healthcare sector. If we can reach people in the early stages and take care of them, then that is the best thing to do. We have to go and reach people before the problems start. We have to look at our young children and make sure that they are protected, not waiting until they get sick. We are going to help them focus on their lifestyle, and we are going to be lobbying for new regulations to protect students, especially the youth, from unhealthy food habits. We are working with the Dubai Municipality, which is doing a great job to make a healthy lifestyle more accessible. This is very important. Our focus is on the frontline, on primary health care. In addition to primary healthcare, in 2012, we are also going to focus more on outpatient services.
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