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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - One of the biggest contributors towards the UAE's economy, the healthcare sector, has come a long way.
From a small seven-bed hospital in the 1960s to a technologically advanced sector providing complex medical treatments, growth of the county's healthcare sector has many impacts - various mortality indicators have gone up drastically, especially infant mortality, which is now better than that of the United States.
The UAE's success story stems from keeping its people at the centre, by providing comprehensive, innovative, and fair healthcare services as per international standards.Here is a look back at the UAE's greatest achievements in the healthcare sector:
Healthcare in the Trucial States
The start of modern healthcare in the UAE can be traced to the days when the area was known as the Trucial States.
In 1943, a small healthcare centre was opened in Al Ras area in Dubai. In 1951, under the patronage of Sheikh Saeed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai, the first phase of the Al Maktoum Hospital was built and continued over succeeding years until a 157-bed hospital was completed. According to Prasanth Manghat, CEO and executive director, NMC Health Plc, the healthcare sector was in primitive state at the time of formation of the country.
"At that time, population comprised of mainly Emiratis and very limited expatriates - mostly Arabs. At the time establishment of the Union, as per reports, there were only seven hospitals and 12 healthcare centres. In 1960, first UAE hospital - named Oasis Hospital - was built in Al Ain by an American couple."
After the UAE was formed in 1971, rapid growth, but a lack of coordination, characterised the health system. "Although cooperation among the emirates had improved by the early 1990s, oil companies and the military continued to have their own medical facilities," Manghat explained. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) was formed in the 1970s.
Manghat said: "The NMC Healthcare started in 1975 and was one of the first private facilities in the country. At the time of inception of NMC, hospitals were run by the government." The same goes for the Zulekha Group as well.
Taher Shams, managing director, Zulekha Healthcare Group, said: "The Zulekha Healthcare Group found its roots in 1964 when its creator Dr Zulekha Daud moved from India to Sharjah in order to pursue her dream of serving people in need and offer affordable medical facilities to all." Zulekha Hospital was first established in Sharjah in 1992.
Thumbay Group was established in the UAE in 1998, with core operations in education, healthcare and research, when it opened the region's first private medical university, the Gulf Medical University, in Ajman.
"The healthcare division of the group started its operations in 2002, with the setting up of the 250-bed Thumbay Hospital in Ajman, which was the first private academic hospital in the region. Eventually, our healthcare division went on to establish a network of nine academic hospitals at multiple locations in the UAE, in addition to a network of 11 family clinics, five diagnostic labs and around 60 retail pharmacies," said Dr Thumbay Moideen, founder president, Thumbay Group.
Technology at the heart of evolution
The UAE now has 40 public hospitals, compared with only seven in 1970. The Ministry of Health and Prevention is undertaking a multimillion-dollar programme to expand health facilities and hospitals, medical centres and a trauma centre in all the emirates.
Dr Azad Moopen, chairman and managing director, Aster DM Healthcare, said: "In the UAE, healthcare spending is expected to rise to $21.3 billion by 2021, with the country intensifying its efforts to build a robust world-class healthcare system as one of the core objectives of the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda."
He added: "2019 has already seen several steps taken in the right direction by the minis-try in support of this Agenda. Earlier this year, Mohap launched a blockchain-based system to save and share information of health professionals, pharmacists and technicians with licensing authorities with a view to reduce time and cost while improving efficiency and data integrity."
Into the future: From 3D organ printing to genome editing
As we progress through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is no longer about 'fixing' anymore - it is about protecting your health, maintaining your health and improving your health. The life-threatening diseases of today are unlikely to exist 50 years from now - there will be self-driving cars, and hence there will be massive reductions of accidents and trauma cases. There are assumptions that with 3D organ printing, even if cancer attacks your cells and your organs, we can just 'replace' the broken part with new and young improved parts to enhance oneself."
> Introduction of wearable medical devices and remote medicine has allowed a better approach to managing patient health.
> Technologies such as Big Data will provide personalized treatments tailored to each patient.
> Advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, augmented reality, genome editing, and 3D printing will also likely take centre stage over the coming years
Alisha Moopen, deputy managing director, Aster DM Healthcare
- In the initial years all residents received free medical care.
- In the early 1990s, the UAE had a modern healthcare system performing advanced procedures such as organ ?transplants and complex heart surgeries.
- As per a WHO report: In 1965, the Abu Dhabi government-employed one physician; three others were in private practice. In 1985, there were 2,361 physicians, 6,090 nurses, 242 dentists ?and 190 pharmacists, almost all of whom were ?foreigners.
- In 1986, the UAE had 40 public hospitals with 3,900 beds and 119 clinics.
- In 1963, founder and chairperson of Zulekha ?Healthcare Group Dr Zulekha Daud set foot in the UAE as the first lady doctor.
- Thumbay Group's hospitals and clinics were among the ?earliest in the country to start the online appointments system, and the mobile app.
- NMC Healthcare has taken lead in the telehealth segment by partnering with TruDoc, UAE's largest telehealth partner to provide teleconsultation, telemonitoring services and various disease ?management programmes
- Zulekha Hospital has come a very long way in establishing Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Robotic Pharmacies
Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person, and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics, and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling, and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88
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