Medical gaps can be solved by innovation

Staff shortages in units like intensive care would be best solved through innovation, rather than by easy fixes, such as overseas recruitment. (Sarah Dea/The National)
Staff shortages in units like intensive care would be best solved through innovation, rather than by easy fixes, such as overseas recruitment. (Sarah Dea/The National)

One ramification of the UAE’s fluctuating population is the difficulty of ensuring all the support industries in the country have enough workers to perform their duties. As The National reported recently, one area that is exemplifying this in the healthcare sector is staff shortages in intensive care units.

The solution seems simple enough: using the international marketplace for medical professionals to hire more staff to cope with the workload. The UAE is fortunate in having the financial resources to take this option, but doing so incurs a different kind of cost in the form of a workforce who often lack a comprehensive understanding of the nuances of our culture.

This human dimension to healthcare is why there has been a campaign to encourage Emiratis to consider medical specialities – whether as a doctor, a nurse or a related technical professions – as a career choice. The medical field is one in which Emiratis are notably under-represented, but with fewer than a million nationals, even the most zealous Emiratisation process would be incapable of creating an entirely home-grown medical workforce. While it is important to have medical staff who understand local ways, that has to be secondary to ensuring there are simply enough trained staff in each unit.

The optimal solution to meeting the UAE’s medical needs will inevitably be multifaceted. Encouraging Emiratis into medical professions will play a part, as will recruiting highly-skilled expatriates. But an important third factor lies in innovation, which has the potential to make the healthcare sector more efficient and less reliant on a large workforce.

Considering Abu Dhabi emirate did not boast a single hospital at the time oil was discovered in 1958, the UAE has made astronomical progress, here and beyond its borders. In Washington DC, for instance, the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation opened at the Children’s National Medical Center in 2011. Efficiencies pioneered in such institutes should be brought back to the UAE, allowing it to make up for shortage of local medical staff through innovative healthcare methods. Doing more with fewer people has the potential to be the long-term solution to meeting the UAE’s medical needs.

Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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