MENAFN - Khaleej Times
UAE- Health insurance for all in three years
(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The head of Dubais health authority says he wants to see the population fully covered by health insurance within the next three years - up from less than a third at the moment.
The health insurance policy for the emirate of Dubai has been approved and implementation will be done as soon as the Medical Insurance Law is passed, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) director general Essa Al Maidoor told Khaleej Timesin an exclusive interview.
Health is about people, their feelings...
Essa Al MaidoorHow do you see the healthcare system for the future in Dubai keeping in mind the Dubai Heath Strategy 2013-2025?
There are two issues here: when a business or service is to be started, we should have a strategy. When we talk about health services, it is not like building any infrastructure. For example, a road network needs to be built just once and it is done. Health is different... health is about people, their feelings, their souls and their social lives and that is how we drive our strategy. We start with prevention and we end up with investment and sustainability because you know you have to have prevention and make sure that you are transforming society to be as healthy as possible in practice and its way of life. All these need initiatives, programmes and designated staff as well as collaboration with local and international healthcare institutions, societies as well as government and private sector entities.
When it comes to providing services, we have to see accessibility, such as do you have to drive too far to access a service? From that, we come up with project developments which are based on the population and geographic locations between primary healthcare centres, hospitals and settlements.
Is there a plan to make primary healthcare centres (PHCs) stronger and more accessible to people?
This is based on what His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has approved as short-term measures. The PHCs have a lot of potential which can be enhanced to give better 24-hour service and even in emergencies... So why head to a hospital when you can have a facility near you that can provide the same service? We recently announced that Nad Al Hammar and Al Barsha (PHCs) will serve people 24 hours. These centres have been selected because of their locations and the large community around them.
Keeping in line with the strategy, you will find that some activities are going to be transferred... moved from a concentrated location... decentralised but will continue to provide service without affecting the quality. Decentralisation will provide enhanced geographical access to healthcare services in the emirate.
Are health education clinics included in these centres?
These are included but of course it is not a matter of emergency. Education, prevention and screening is ongoing... it is a continuous activity.
Medical tourism is important for Dubai and for that, we need a big infrastructure and professionals as well.
What are the plans to implement such a big project?
When we talk about customers and patients... we talk about everybody. Our people, our guests... people coming to Dubai. Our strategy is to further build up quality - starting from having a strong legislation and system in which you can find it easy to invest in the medical industry to an easier, comprehensive and trusted medical system where you have good hospitals, doctors, good machines and so on. In totality, the focus is on quality medicine. We are building a total and credible system which people will trust and choose.
We are not asking them to come... but we want them to select Dubai as their destination for medical tourism. We are building on earlier achievements since Dubai has achieved a lot in tourism... we are trying to utilise what is already there, such as roads, airlines etc... People like to come here and when they find that there is also a medical part to it, their stay will be more comfortable.
You are talking about the infrastructure, but how do you attract the professionals?
Well, actually Dubai is a brand and people like to associate themselves with a brand. We are building the Dubai brand in the medical field and in general as well. We are soon going to have a Dubai accreditation body which hopefully will elevate the standards.
Would you be able to give any projected numbers (of professionals and infrastructure)?
In such things, you cannot give figures... we can say there is a momentum for that. I can tell you that within the last 10 years, more than 20 hospitals have been built. There are more than 1,500 beds under construction, so it means people are investing here... Will the investor come if there is no potential? A strategy has already been approved by the Executive Council and we are implementing (that). With that, you will see improvements in the health sector.
Professionals like to come to a place where there are rules and regulations and a sound system. Not everybody can come in... we have to have control on that because we are dealing with peoples health.
For such an infrastructure, you would need public and private partnership. Is that an important part of the strategy?
Yes, of course, private and public partnership is the way forward to achieve excellence in healthcare. I established a committee that had members from the public and private health sectors. This committee includes members from some private hospitals and some staff from the DHA. They are working together headed by the director of the Licensing Department to improve and see how we can make investors life easy... We try and make processes without complications and without affecting the quality because investors have invested a lot in the hospitals and they do not want poor quality. They are working together and this will soon reflect in medical tourism.
There has been much talk about health insurance. What exactly is the status now and when will it be rolled out?
I can tell you comfortably that 30 per cent of the people in Dubai are insured... almost a million. In the meantime, we have got the health insurance policy approved and we are in the process of getting the insurance law endorsed. Currently, we are liaising with all stakeholders and partners such as the Department of Economic Development, Tourism Department, Immigration, Legal Department in the Rulers Office... so when the law is endorsed, everybody is on board.
Also, we have a committee with the insurance companies - at least 40 companies that will deal with health insurance. We are also trying to build the infrastructure in all hospitals. All private hospitals are not 100 per cent equipped to handle insurance claims. We have a plan that within three years, we will transfer from partly insured to a 100 per cent insured society.
Will this include the blue-collar workers?
Yes, of course. They will also enjoy having an insurance card and service wherever they go.
What is your outlook for the health sector in Dubai in the coming two years?
I have already established initiatives that are short term and we can get a lot of results mainly targeting the customers and their satisfaction. There are a lot of issues that can easily be dealt with and they are not so complicated and do not require a lot of medical input such as customer relations, appointments, the way the staff deal with people... these have all been taken care of.
We also have mid-term and long-term plans to improve direct service providing, medical tourism and also medical education. We are trying to create a different way to look into medical education so that students who have studied for seven to eight (years) get an opportunity to practise in their field of medicine. Research is also very important because all the cases that we treat can be used as statistical information which is important for future planning in terms of public health and health policy and strategy.
What are the biggest challenges you foresee in implementing your healthcare plans?
There are so many challenges actually... like how to change the staffs mentality to cope with the customer requirements. The customer satisfaction bar is rising continuously as education and IT access increases. At the same time, the customers understanding of issues will make it easier for us to serve them better.
With time you will see many initiatives coming in based on what you say as there is no value for success but you have proportional success.
Up close and personal
Your role as the head of the DHA?
I am a member of this authority. There is no difference between me and other staff members. Any initiative to improve the authority can come from the office boy or even from a director of the hospital but it is an initiative and we have to listen to everybody and work together with positive energy.
Your most positive trait that you input in running the organisation?
Being positive, being open-minded and accepting any comments and criticism as a gift. With that we can move forward; but if we say we are perfect and have reached the ultimate, that means we have reached the end.
What is your health regimen as the head of a health body?
I believe in sports. Luckily, I have loved sports since I was a child... I like all types of sports. My advice to everybody is, dont keep stress in your mind. If you do that, you will get older quickly and sick. There are so many issues doctors cant cure. Doctors dont have a miracle stick but I think sports has a miracle stick. Playing sports can release all your tensions 100 per cent. Anyone who does not believe this should try it once.
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