How would you describe the state of healthcare in Dubai?

AL MUROOSHID: Dubai went through a stage of progress and improvement over the last 40 years. We started with a small clinic with 20 doctors from some of our neighboring nations and we followed a very clear plan set by our leaders and we have now reached a very good stage today. We look forward to continue improving and providing quality care for the people of Dubai and the people of the UAE. We have achieved a great deal of progress and we have passed many milestones starting with the first hospital, Al Maktoum Hospital, which was built about 55 years ago. It was very small, but at that time, it was a big star in the whole region in terms of medical services. Rashid hospital was built in the early 70’s and it was one of the largest hospitals equipped with a range of specialties adding to Dubai Hospital, which was considered the largest hospital in the region with respect to capacity and number of beds. Al Wasl Hospital was built in the late 80s and was specialized in maternity and children. This year, we started Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital and it is currently 12% complete. We expect this project to be completed by 2013.

Our future plans include new hospitals like Al Maktoum Hospital and also primary healthcare and specialty centers. We have a plan to add a specialized center for all the new areas in Dubai and also to replace the existing old facilities. When it comes to manpower, we have seen a great increase in the number of professionals. Locals and nationals who had the chance to be trained overseas are coming back to help their people and serve their nation. Also, we have become the right place for high caliber professionals worldwide. We employ around 105 nationalities in DHA, which is representative of Dubai as a city. We believe that medicine has no barrier on nationality or geography. The services available in Dubai as a city are encouraging a great deal of professionals to move their families here. Dubai is a great place for them to work and also have a high quality of life with a good environment to raise their children. With that comes technology. We are updating ourselves and we are very advanced in terms of the technology we have adopted. The DHA has all the machines and equipment, which is supporting our doctors to serve their patients. We are adopting a lot of a lot of electronic services with regard to genealogy, pharmacy, and the laboratories are all paperless. We have many plans for electronic medical record keeping, which is going to start in the next 6 months. The project is going to take around 3 to 4 years to complete and when this is finished it will position Dubai as one of the few nations that has implemented electronic medical records.

To what extent is there a coordinated approach to healthcare across the emirates?

AL MUROOSHID: I do believe that the United Arab Emirates has a great position in the region when it comes to healthcare. Our leaders at the federal level are working hard. The government is making good investments in healthcare and healthcare has always been a priority in our annual budget in the UAE. That reflects the care of our leadership and their understanding of the needs of the people of the UAE. The UAE has great facilities when it comes to hospitals. This year, there are many new facilities being added to the network of healthcare in the United Arab Emirates. From what I can recall, probably 3 or 4 hospitals will be going into service this year all over the UAE. I think this is great and we highly appreciate our leadership in this aspect. I believe the majority of our nationals and residents are enjoying good health care services that are accessible and high quality. We think we are leading the region. Our plan and our ambition are not limited to what we provide; we believe that when it comes to health and education, it is an ongoing process and requires ongoing improvement.

What are the best investment opportunities in healthcare in the UAE today?

AL MUROOSHID: Concerning the foreign investment in healthcare, it is strongly welcomed and we have a strategy where we can help and assist in opening the door for investors. We want to create the utilities for them and direct them to the right place. That comes through our studies and research that focuses on the need for more facilities or specialty development. I think there are great opportunities for investors and we have been working with many investors overseas to show them those opportunities. For example, Al Wasl Hospital is a maternity hospital with a total of 400 beds, but there is always a need for more maternity services and we always like to provide our people in Dubai more options. It is also clear from the number of newborn babies that there is a need for more hospitals. As a government, we are able to add more facilities, but we believe that the private sector deserves and has the right to be involved in these opportunities. Another example is Dubai Healthcare City (DHC). DHC provides investors all of the best facilities; 100% foreign ownership, tax-free status, with a great location and great property. We as a government are also providing statistics and studies on where there is growth in population. We can also provide the whole urban plan for Dubai.

When it comes to our procedures of licensing hospitals and professionals, we have just launched our new online service where doctors can apply and can get approved for their licenses prior to arrival in Dubai. We try to minimize bureaucracy and the time doctors spend away from their paid profession. We have been talking to investors, and if you look at the standard here, less than 8 years ago there were only 3 private hospitals. Today, we are talking about 20 private hospitals plus the few that are going to come online this year. The number of clinics is increasing and the number of professionals is also increasing. We like to encourage them and we always listen to them as a partner to do what is best for our people. We are now adopting the international standard for quality in healthcare services, which should send a strong message to all investors that this sector is willing, ready, and well monitored to make sure that this is the right place to practice their business.

What telemedicine initiatives are you involved in?

AL MUROOSHID: Telemedicine is very important especially when we provide services across the whole city. We are adopting some of the services now such as the imaging program where all of our doctors have access to all of the images from whatever clinic they are in. In the past, we had to mobilize the black old films, which I can assure you, in DHA, do not exist anymore. All of our images are being transferred through the system. So this is one of those telemedicine services that we provide. If there is a clinic on the East end of Dubai they will have immediate access to all of the images in our database and this is helping them out a lot. Also, we have a few new proposals that we are considering. We believe in telemedicine and that it is the future for healthcare. We are working to improve it and we have great communications infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates, which helps us to move forward and to adopt new systems. Without that infrastructure, we would not be able to transfer images that require a very high tech network because the number of those images transferred from clinic to clinic is very large. Our communications infrastructure is great and provides us with the service required and that has really helped us to move forward. We rely on this infrastructure because in the future we are going to be adopting all of the telemedicine services, which are going to help our professionals deliver the best services to our clients.

What are the main challenges in healthcare in the UAE today?

AL MUROOSHID: I believe that the serious challenge that we are facing is educating people. We are working on this as a priority in our strategy. I believe that regardless of how many facilities we have, we have to educate people   and promote health for the community. This is the front line for us and I think it is a great challenge especially when it comes to diabetes. We have a very high number of people with diabetes and this is a seriousness concern for us. Our target is to educate people to improve their lifestyle and educate them about their health. This is a very serious challenge. We also have a challenge here, that we do not look at as a problem, but Dubai has almost 190 nationalities, so we have people coming from all over the world. Not all countries are well-prepared and monitoring diseases so this is another great challenge. We are working and we are handling this in the best way.

What role does healthcare play in Dubai’s long-term economic vision?

AL MUROOSHID: Dubai has a clear plan from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to position Dubai as a business hub. Health has a great deal to do with this. We are part of the Dubai package, which is providing people with security, healthcare, education, and infrastructure. We are a very important element in this chain. We need to provide healthcare and we need to secure people that their health, and the health of their loved ones, is looked after. People need to be able to live without worrying about dangers in the healthcare system. This is what we are working on through various departments for the overall package of Dubai. Secondly, healthcare is a huge business and there is a huge investment that has been made. This can be seen from all of the exhibitions and conferences, and all of them for the last 3 years have been increasing in size by about 15% to 20% worldwide. All of the conferences we have hosted have been a big success for the organizers and the participants. That tells us that Dubai has been positioned as the business hub of the region. It is the place for the entire region to come and see the new knowledge and to sign deals to get all of the products and services they need when it comes to health. There are many good examples including Arab Health, IDF, Cardiac Congress, etc. People are coming from all over the region and our region is not small. The exhibitions here are not in place to service Dubai by itself, they are servicing a population of 1.5bn. Dubai is their hub. There are so many things that Dubai can offer. Our airport can be accessed easily, our immigration procedures help people to come here to Dubai, and the infrastructure that we have from the hotels, the municipality, road transportation, etc, all of this is the package of Dubai and we are a very important element in this package.