The National Ambulance is a partnership between the Social Security Fund for MOI (Fazaa Group) and Aspen Medical. Can you tell us about the value of this partnership model?
When National Ambulance was established in 2010, we had a clear desire to partner with someone with prior expertise. We discussed partnerships with a number of entities worldwide, from places such as the US, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and even South Africa. We drew up a shortlist, and the government evaluated the options with representatives in our embassies in those countries. By 2010, the decision was made, and we had our first board meeting. 80% of the shares in National Ambulance are held by a UAE government entity and 20% by Aspen Medical. The partnership has been important in helping us meet the challenges of providing high-quality services and training and crafting our standard operating procedures (SOPs).
What best practices are defining ambulance services worldwide, and how do you bring those to the UAE?
Our policy has been to model our SOPs off countries with the highest standards. We have many international partners, such as the NAS in Ireland, the NHS in the UK, the ambulance services in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia, and some local services in Vancouver, Canada, and parts of the US, such as Seattle. The primary basis of our patient care protocols (CGP134) in the UAE comes from Ireland and the UK. We import knowledge and practices from these places and even feed them to partners elsewhere in the GCC and Asia. The UAE National Ambulance has been called upon numerous times to attend meetings in the region to review other nations' outcomes and protocols. The path is long, but we are on the right track.
What is being done to involve more Emirati nationals into the medical sector, particularly as paramedics and ambulance workers?
It is important for Emiratis to start immersing themselves in the health system and learning about it, and we have been doing this for nearly three years now. Paramedic work can be particularly challenging for local trainees because, for many of them, it will have been the first time they have been in such close proximity to the kinds of tragedy we deal with. We need to teach them many skills, so they can be prepared physically, mentally, and psychologically. When we designed our training programs for Emirati nationals, we reviewed the internships done by the Ministry of Interior, Abu Dhabi Police, Dubai Police, Dubai Ambulance, and the Ministry of Health in order to determine the best ways to empower and encourage them to be a part of National Ambulance. We started our training program officially in 2017, and the first and second cohort has graduated. Today, we are at the point where the program has so many applicants that we can be extremely selective for our third cohort.
How can we expect the business model of National Ambulance to evolve in the coming years?
We recently announced an expansion into the Northern Emirates, and we are working with a number of government entities to ensure our successes elsewhere in the UAE are replicated there. In terms of our business model, at this stage all our services are being paid for by the government and by semi-government, private shares. We need to make sure we are introducing a model that is independently financially sustainable, which means creating standalone, self-funded services. We are successfully moving toward that. In the Northern Emirates, where we are introducing an insurance program, we have recovered around 35% of the cost from that. Other factors are on our mind for future protocol and communications, such as engaging with the community and encouraging a prevention-oriented mentality that creates a culture of health. Our goal is to make sure that the UAE's National Ambulance leads the world by example.