To what extent was healthcare neglected during the economic boom in the UAE? To what extent has the lag that neglect created in the sector provided more opportunity in healthcare today?

ZUBAIDY: The healthcare market in Dubai has developed in the same way as the real estate market in Dubai. The real estate market grew quickly here many years ago and now the same thing is happening in the healthcare sector. Unfortunately, the healthcare sector only really saw growth over the last three years; after the real estate crisis began. I believe that every activity, establishment or organization needs focus and resources. Once we have focus and resources, anything is achievable.

How challenging is the recruitment and retention of medical professionals?

ZUBAIDY: Dubai has been marketed in the past as a world-class city. Since everyone knows Dubai,  it has not been difficult to get people involved in the healthcare sector, particularly in the last three years. 8 years ago, it was difficult to get a doctor to move from his home country to Dubai; now it is much easier. The crisis is everywhere and Dubai is now a target. In the last 3-4 years, we started seeing more human resources, more manpower, and more brains. What I mean by brains is the that best of the best are looking to resettle in Dubai. Adding to that, the help of the government, the lifestyle of Dubai, and the fact that it is a tax-free country, make it a very appealing place to settle.

Over the next 20 years, treatment demand in the GCC will rise by 240 per cent and the total number of hospital beds will need to more than double to 162,000 to meet the needs of an ailing populace, according to consulting firm McKinsey and Company. Is the UAE currently on track to meet these growing demands?

ZUBAIDY: I think we should reconsider the steps of treatment in each and every case. If we started to employ the Western system to encourage the primary healthcare system, this will decrease the load on the secondary and the tertiary healthcare system. Unfortunately, the difference between primary, secondary, and tertiary systems is not clear in Dubai. With that in mind, now we need to focus on the primary system. The secondary is adequate for today, and the tertiary system needs some improvement. There are only three hospitals in Dubai that provide tertiary care. The primary healthcare system is quite vague, so we need to educate patients and to set rules so the patients will adhere to a system that will filter the patients into the appropriate places. At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the people who need tertiary care, receive tertiary care, and that the people who need secondary care can reach those centers. Many patients will be filtered through primary care. I think we need to launch more education programs to fine-tune the flow of patients.

How would you describe the competition between private healthcare providers in the UAE today?

ZUBAIDY: Hospitals in the private sector should complete each other rather than compete with each other. At the end of the day, none of the hospitals here can provide A-Z tertiary service. I’ve been in this market for the last 8 years and I know that a completing type of system will work fine. Bear in mind there is a big market and all of the hospitals can have their share. When you consider the healthcare system in the UAE as a whole and everybody involved, everyone can win. When we realize that we should complete each other and not act solo, we will all be successful. The service provided by the government hospitals in Dubai is of a very high standard and it can compete internationally. It is much better than the service provided by any of the other Arab countries. The problem is not the quality; it is the quantity. The capacity of the government sector is much less than the demand. If the insurance companies started playing the role they are supposed to, people will start to be redirected into the private sector. The private sector will be more profitable and will be able to provide better service. At the same time, the demand and the pressure on government facilities will be reduced and they will be able to provide much better services. I think it will start with fine-tuning, and making a system that links all of the providers in the healthcare system together. At the end of the day this will help the UAE to be the leader in the region and also internationally.