A SUSTAINABLE FORCE

Abu Dhabi 2019 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman of the Department of Health (DoH), on facilitating investment for local and foreign investors and building and maintaining a sustainable workforce.

Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al Hamed

What are the key strategic priorities for DoH to ensure dynamic, affordable, and high-quality healthcare services?

DoH will continue its efforts to increase the efficiency of the health sector in line with Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, fulfilling society's needs and expectations and proactively promoting a healthier society and a culture of healthcare excellence. As such, this year we are building a new strategic plan that will enable the healthcare sector to realize its full potential, which boils down to closing capacity gaps in the short term, building an integrated healthcare system with better value for money, and achieving a transformational shift in Abu Dhabi healthcare's long-term innovation and medical tourism vision. The industry has evolved over the years into a mature, adaptable, and advanced system aligned with leading international systems in terms of practices, standards, and regulations. This system is driven by high standards of quality based on excellent services through highly skilled health professionals and state-of-the-art facilities, guaranteeing patients an exceptional, transparent, and safe experience.

As chairman, what is your message to reassure private investors of the opportunities in the health sector?

The private sector is one of DoH's most valuable partners, and the rise in regional healthcare demand has presented the private sector in particular with many opportunities for development and expansion. As such, Abu Dhabi's healthcare system is facilitating investment for local and foreign investors through a number of initiatives, such as the recent Capacity Master Plan (CMP), which was launched to help investors identify the best investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi's healthcare system until 2030, based on current and foreseen supply and demand levels. In this sense, the geographical areas of demand are mostly in Al Dhafrah, Al Ain, and Western Region, whereas services in great demand include primary care, specialist outpatient care, and emergency care units. In the CMP plan, investors can learn about laws, regulations, and standards required by the health authority.

How can the sector strike a balance between developing the skills of Emirati doctors and attracting foreign talent?

The healthcare industry in Abu Dhabi boasts a solid infrastructure and an attractive business climate, in addition to an advanced regulatory framework, all of which give Abu Dhabi a competitive advantage and offer a conducive investment environment. The attractiveness of the market is highlighted by the number of international, multi-specialty health facilities we have been able to attract, such as the Cleveland Clinic and the Imperial College London Diabetes Center, which, together with locally based health providers such as Healthpoint, Mediclinic, and Burjeel Hospital, provide world-class health services that can accommodate patients who require surgical and specialized treatment. That being said, national agenda 2021 has steered the country's efforts toward a sturdier, knowledge-based, and diversified economy, with the UAE government reinforcing Emiratization initiatives in various strategic sectors to empower its citizens and ensure it has a sustainable workforce. This is also the case also in the healthcare sector, where the government's efforts have seen more leading economic players join the healthcare industry as health professionals, contributing to the advancement of provision of healthcare and innovation. Building and maintaining a sustainable workforce is also crucial for the Abu Dhabi healthcare sector to remain one of the cornerstones of the UAE healthcare system. Therefore, DoH is working alongside medical and educational institutions to encourage young Emiratis to study medicine and other related fields. For example, in 2017 we launched an awareness campaign where we reached out to potential medical students to help them learn about different medical specialties and job market needs and understand which opportunities can advance their careers. At the same time, DoH is also facilitating onboarding and medical licensing for UAE nationals through improved health professional licensing requirements.