The Business Year

Robert Ball

UAE, ABU DHABI - Health & Education

To The Rescue

CEO, National Ambulance

Bio

Robert Ball is the CEO of National Ambulance, a company that provides emergency pre-hospital care in the UAE to the public and private industries. He was a founding member of the National Ambulance Company and appointed as CEO shortly after joining the company as the COO. Together with his Deputy Ahmed Al Hajeri, they are responsible for the development of National Ambulance as the leading pre-hospital care organization in the UAE.

TBY talks to Robert Ball, CEO of National Ambulance, on investing in staff, enhancing efficiency, and future growth.

How do you invest in the training and development of your staff?

Our training is specific to our needs and is a major part of our core business. Our training team covers all areas from basic life support to pediatric to advanced coronary care life support. Our trainers are in-house, and our courses are registered with the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) where they are scrutinized and accredited. We even have hospitals that are asking us to come and train their staff. Training, for us, is a part of our DNA—it is what we do. Our staff has a tough job to do. It is essential for us that we look after our staff. Our turnover rate is less than 2% over four years, which we are very proud of.

How has your fleet grown over the years, and how are you looking to develop it further?

Our fleet has increased over the past four years to just over 100 vehicles. Ahmed Al Hajeri led the design of the vehicles so they would meet the demands of the environment we work in. The fleet is deployed across the UAE. The largest public deployment of our ambulances is in the Northern Emirates. We are providing a basic life support service in the Northern Emirates with 24 ambulances operating 24/7. We have invested in brand new ambulances based on the Mercedes-Benz 324 chassis, which is a reliable frame for this type of service. We get them sent directly from Germany to our Ambulance converter in the UK, and then we ship them here. The Northern Emirates has the most advanced ambulance fleet in the Middle East. We are currently in Phase I of this project; in Phase II we will add more vehicles and crew.

What sort of operational model do you implement at National Ambulance?

There are two different models. The Franco-German model is where a doctor is part of the ambulance crew, and they go from the hospital to the patient and back. What we provide is an Anglo-American model of service where we have emergency medical technicians and paramedics as the team to go to the patient and take them to the most appropriate hospital; that is the model that works best here. EMTs have a scope of practice that allows them to provide basic life support skills, while paramedics have a more advanced scope of practice that allows them to provide additional interventions and provide Advanced Life Support.

What sort of technology do you use to enhance efficiency and reduce response times?

Response times are one metric that is often used when people look at ambulance services. It is important that patients receive the most appropriate level of care as quickly as possible. In the Northern Emirates, we are continuing to improve our response times. As our fleet increases this will allow more ambulances to be deployed in the area. In terms of technology, we use computer-aided dispatch. One of the challenges here in the UAE, and something people take for granted in the US for example, is that you can pick up the phone, order something, and get all the information through the call line number identification. That system is being rolled out progressively in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and will eventually be rolled out in the rest of the UAE. We have also implemented a pre-alert system that allows our dispatchers to advise a receiving hospital if a serious injury is coming to their emergency department.

Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, what are your growth aspirations and expectations moving forward?

We have seen a continued demand for our services from a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, the government and the private sector. Locally in Abu Dhabi a tender is being considered to privatize the service. We have registered our interest and look forward to the process continuing. Regardless of that tender the UAE is growing at an amazing rate. Our services are recognized as best practice so I am confident that we will see more opportunities.

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