Tackling staff shortages during UAE’s ‘healthcare’ boom a priority
With healthcare investment high on the agenda in the UAE, Dubai attracted more than 118,000 medical tourists in Q1 of 2015 with total revenue of more than Dhs 778 million. By 2020, Dubai aims to surpass its 2020 target revenue of Dhs 2.6 billion by an additional 20 per cent.
“Several factors are behind the success of the strategy,” says Dr Layla Al Marzooqi, director of the health regulation at DHA and director of the Dubai Medical Tourism Office. “Dubai’s attractiveness as a destination and the availability of high-quality medical care are the key drivers of the medical tourism initiative.”
Yet, as competition intensifies within the healthcare setting, hospitals and clinics are battling to retain and attract medical professionals needed to keep pace with their growth. The biggest strength and biggest challenge is trying to equip the hospital with the right staff and resources at the right time.
According to B.R Shetty, founder and CEO of NMC Healthcare, who are planning to open three new facilities in the UAE, “The UAE faces a major issue of manpower shortage in the healthcare industry, with the number of physicians at 1.5 per 1,000 people. Importing doctors from others countries contributes to a big chunk of healthcare costs.”
One suggestion has been to train more nationals in order to reduce the reliance on outsourced medical professionals. The Mohammed bin Rashid University for Medicine and Health Sciences, launched last year, received its first batch of students in September this year in an effort to develop homegrown manpower in the UAE.
Despite the efforts from the authorities and private sector alike, industry analysts feel there is still a long way to go.
According to consultancy firm PwC’s Middle East, the chronic shortage of medical talent in the UAE is a developmental issue.
“That is not just a money issue, for these medical professionals. We have probably underinvested in that area but turnover can be very expensive in this field. The region is still catching up. There has been enormous progress but that does not mean that we are there yet, ” says Ryder Smith, PWC Middle East.
Authorities need to now look elsewhere for solutions to the crisis. Telemedicine could be a solution to the increasing demand and may help relieve the shortage of quality health care practitioners in the short term.