DIAGNOSIS PERSONIFIED

UAE, Dubai 2013 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor, Director-General of Dubai Health Authority, on the construction of new hospitals, regulations in the sector, and international hospital chains.

HE Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor
BIOGRAPHY
Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor earned his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Utah State University. He has been the Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) since November, 2012. Prior to this appointment, Al Maidoor was the Deputy Director-General of Dubai Municipality. He earlier held the post of Assistant Director for Engineering and Planning at the municipality. He is also the President of the Society of Engineers, UAE, and has held this post since 2010.

The Dubai Health Strategy Plan includes the construction of three new hospitals and 40 primary healthcare centers. What can you tell us about the rationale behind this strategy?

We look at healthcare as a service, similar to that of infrastructure or education. We provide this service through hospitals and health centers. We base our plans on the expected overall aims for Dubai and the UAE. We look at the broader region and the world as well, and base our plans on the anticipated growth of Dubai according to the Vision 2020. There are two parameters for the building of such facilities: population and distance. There has to be a specified distance between hospitals and people. Based on those parameters, we decided to build three hospitals and 40 healthcare centers. We believe that prevention is vital; therefore, we are hoping that these healthcare centers will change the mindset of society and encourage preventive healthcare. We want to make people happy, and healthy people are happy people.

What are the benefits of being linked to the government in terms of promoting private and public sector cooperation in the healthcare sector?

We believe that the private and public sectors should complement each other and not be so competitive that they cannot achieve their shared goals. Therefore, we put together a team from the private sector and the government, and they work to develop the private healthcare sector. When I issue a regulation or conduct an inspection, the two parties can find out what the reasons behind the decisions are. Serious people want quality regulations that provide them with protection. However, we do not draft regulations in isolation—we talk to people, identify what they need, and they find results. It is a win-win situation.

How do these regulations affect the sector?

We want to make people's lives easier in general in Dubai, especially those of business people. The regulator wants to impose many regulations, however, and thinks only theoretically. We need to have a balance between academic, theoretical, and pragmatic, people-focused regulations so that the industry and investors are protected. We protect customers first and foremost, as patients need good healthcare, and, after that, our focus is on the safety of private investments in the healthcare sector.

The Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdam launched the Health Tourism Initiative in 2012. How do you see this initiative, and how will it develop in the future?

Dubai has a unique position in terms of tourism. It is set up expertly with an airline, airports, hotels, and shopping centers. This makes the city an ideal place to bring in health tourists. There are many people in surrounding countries that simply do not have access to the healthcare they desire or need. Europe is far away and more expensive, meaning that Dubai can emerge as a powerful alternative. We should focus on improving services, and make Dubai a health hub for the region. We have participated in many international conferences, so we are learning from our colleagues around the world. I have high hopes for the plan.

How do you attract international hospital chains to the country?

Some hospitals come and invest without any partnership or help. Others approach us and say they will operate a facility if they are provided with the right infrastructure. We are open to both, and we believe that the knowledge that our partners provide is helpful. Those who invest here succeed. We have four public hospitals and 22 private hospitals, all of which have arrived over the past decade. This is because they trust Dubai and our ideology of keeping the patient in focus and serving them in the best way possible. Regarding investors, we have good legislation in place, and so they trust what we offer, and are confident of experiencing a comfortable business environment. Another important element is the introduction of insurance, which means that the financing of healthcare services will be guaranteed. If people have an insurance card, they can go to any hospital and receive the same treatment without rushing to a specific hospital. Once in place, this will create a more stable investment environment and guarantee our hospitals and patients. We already have about 33% of the population insured, and are in the process of making this obligatory because we need full insurance in order to optimize services. Meanwhile, the e-Claim service links all pharmacies, hospitals, and polyclinics. We are currently monitoring this to ensure that hospitals and insurance companies are using the service correctly. Today, 100% of hospitals have adopted this system, and 90% of polyclinics are also using it. We work together with insurance companies to create the necessary regulations and structures, thereby attracting investors and partners.