Sep. 5, 2016

Aref Ali Al Shehhi

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Aref Ali Al Shehhi

Acting CEO, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City

TBY talks to Aref Ali Al Shehhi, Acting CEO of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, on the challenges and opportunities in the healthcare sector.


Aref Ali Al Shehhi is the Acting CEO, having been appointed to this position in November 2015 after serving as the Deputy CEO at SKMC for two years and the Medical Director of Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation Center for over two years. Al Shehhi holds a bachelor of science in medicine and surgery from Alexandria University, Egypt, and an MBA degree with honors from Abu Dhabi University, UAE. He is also a fellow in healthcare administration at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, US (2012-2013) and a fellow of the Canadian Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, FRCPC-Canada. He was selected among Seha’s best 100 employees in the category of “Best Executive Director.”

As the UAE economy grows and diversifies, what challenge does this present to the healthcare sector?

The healthcare sector is full of challenges, and if you do not have clear directions and priorities you will be lost. One of the greatest challenges we are facing is securing talented staff, which is a challenge everywhere—it is not just attracting good staff, but retaining them. There is always a shortage and there is always a need to have a clear strategy in this area. Our healthcare system has become so complex that it not only requires physicians who do surgery, but also a lot of support staff. Technology is another aspect, and it is developing quickly. If you do not have a clear strategy on what and where to invest in technology, you will be lost. One of the challenges that we are facing here in the Middle East is lifestyle, because people's lifestyles are starting to change; therefore, we started being faced with many diseases and a number of conditions and diseases started to grow here because of these lifestyles. Diabetes and heart problems are examples and they are all linked to the new lifestyles that people are moving toward; they are changing the way they eat, the way they work, and all this will create a burden on the healthcare sector. If we do not include preventative education and explain what is covered with the healthcare in the strategy, then definitely in the future we will pay a lot and the costs will be high.

With technology constantly evolving, what particular areas require financing at the moment?

Technology enters all areas in the hospitals, from registrations to surgeries, from running management meetings to calling people; therefore, in the healthcare system it is key to use technology that makes work easier and safer while providing high-quality services. Any technology that can help make you more efficient and effective is positive. We have to be smart and clear on the direction we want to go. Financial resources should be available to every level of operation in the hospitals, and the wisdom in selecting which area of technology and equipment to invest in needs to be strategized; otherwise, it will increase the costs.

Can you tell us what procedures are dominating your surgery statistics?

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City is a flagship, tertiary hospital. We have more than 12 subspecialties that we call unique services, which are only available at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City; therefore, we have a wide scope of services. It is both a challenge and an opportunity to lead the market. We offer different types of surgery from cardiac surgeries to small procedures. We are a unique center for adult and pediatric cardiac surgery, and in 2015 the numbers of adult and pediatric cardiac surgeries was around 700, which is considered a large number. We are the only pediatric cardiac surgery program in the UAE. We are the center of excellence for pediatrics and cardiology, meaning we are capable of dealing with all types of cases related to pediatrics and cardiology ranging from mild to complex ones with positive outcomes. We also have other types of surgery like orthopedic surgeries, and we are having a big number or orthopedic surgeries done here from arthroplasty to other fracture surgeries and minor surgeries as well as pediatric spinal surgeries. We have an ophthalmology division, which is one of the most successful divisions in the system and we are the only pediatric ophthalmology center in the system. We have a diabetic center that offers a wide scope of services. Our emergency department is the largest in Abu Dhabi. Our physical medicine and rehabilitation service offers wide spectrum of services for inpatients and outpatients. Other unique services that are only offered at SKMC include kidney transplant, pediatrics, gastroenterology, and pediatric critical care.