CHALLENGE & OPPORTUNITY

UAE, Dubai 2014 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Eng. Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor, Director General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), on the role of the institution in boosting healthcare in the Emirate.

HE Eng. Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor
BIOGRAPHY
Essa Al Haj Al Maidoor is the Director General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), the strategic health authority for the Emirate of Dubai. Prior to his appointment, he was Deputy Director-General of Dubai Municipality. He has a degree in Engineering from Utah State University and is also President of the UAE Society of Engineers.

How would you describe your overall strategy to develop the health sector in the Emirate?

We have established our strategy based on several important parameters such as geographical access, population growth, and the diversity of health services required. For the health sector, geographical distance and access play a major role. I believe that only a dynamic and flexible strategy can be successful. It should respond to challenges that arise, as well as make use of any opportunity that comes up. This is the basic principle that we employ to meet demand, whether it concerns legislation, establishing a market, or collecting data that will eventually improve customer service. All of the departments within the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) follow this approach. We also use it in dealing with insurance companies and providers of healthcare services.

What are the most important challenges that you face in realizing your vision and how do you plan to overcome them?

There are quite a few challenges, one of them being human resources (HR), which we need to build up. It takes around one or two years to design an excellent hospital, and then a further three or four years to construct it. Yet, ensuring the right HR balance requires up to eight years. There is a growing demand for services, and the range available in the Middle East today is tremendous. Another contemporary challenge is the use of smart solutions, which requires a re-wiring of organizational culture toward the adoption of more comprehensive solutions that result in precise treatment, a lower number of human errors, and comprehensive data for R&D purposes. But of course, in every challenge lies an opportunity.

How do you plan to attract more Emiratis to work in the healthcare sector and retain them?

First of all, this is not a matter of salaries as such, but of the working environment itself. If an individual joins us, they feel relevant to what we do, and we continuously try and provide a platform for further training. Within a one-year period a doctor develops more capabilities and skills, receives more training, and has access to R&D facilities. We are creating what we call future health leaders. An institution like ours needs to pay well, but also needs to create a partnership with its HR.

Dubai is trying to diversify its economic matrix. How do you foresee the sector playing a role in driving this process?

There is an initiative launched by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, namely medical tourism. This full service encompasses the airlines, airport, transport infrastructure, and shopping. We are upgrading our hospitals to the point where they can be considered hospitality facilities. Our guests come from both the East and West. Dubai offers excellence of health services especially in certain areas, such as cardiology, and we aim to capitalize this through the medical tourism initiative. For instance, the Nabadat initiative provides free surgery for children, Emiratis, and expatriates with congenital heart disease. It was launched in 2007 by the DHA and the HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Charity and Humanitarian Establishment. We invite our colleagues from the UK, Sweden, Italy, and other countries to work alongside our specialists. This confirms the truly globalized nature of our business, and that we can help people no matter where they come from.

In light of the new law regarding compulsory health insurance in Dubai, what impact do you foresee on the healthcare sector?

I believe it will result in a considerable enhancement of services. Compulsory health insurance is an essential component of any efficient healthcare sector. It will facilitate healthy competition amongst healthcare providers, ensure universal access to basic healthcare, and, thus, help create a dynamic health sector. Presently, many cannot afford proper healthcare, and the new regulations guarantee universal access to essential services regardless of their financial circumstances. This legal change will therefore create health security through the provision of insurance.