x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Health care is ripe for Emiratisation

There are ample reasons for Emiratis to join the health care field. And the Government must do everything to encourage them to do so

Unlike the manufacturing and construction sectors, which tend to reflect the whims of the wider economy, the medical profession offers reliable growth prospects. In Abu Dhabi alone, an estimated 1,500 doctors need to be recruited each year just to keep pace with population growth and staff turnover. These jobs also tend to be well-paid and perceived as having a high social standing in most communities.

All of these conditions would seem to make this sector perfect for Emiratisation, yet there are surprisingly few UAE citizens seeking to train in medical fields, whether it is as doctors or ancillary professions like physiotherapy, radiography or as nurses.

As The National reported yesterday, none of the Gulf countries are producing enough medical graduates, despite soaring regional demand for health care professionals. The shortfall is made good by recruiting doctors from overseas, but this is far from ideal, since those who trained and worked in more than 50 other nations bring the techniques and working styles of their homelands with them, leading to inconsistencies in standards within UAE hospitals.

The management consultant McKinsey & Company has predicted that overall demand for health care in the GCC will increase by 240 per cent in the next 20 years, which creates a strong case for Emiratis to help fill that gap. There are many compelling points in favour of this: female doctors who wish to work only with women patients can do so by specialising in fields like obstetrics and gynaecology. For UAE women, there is also the comforting thought that their doctor will not only speak the same language but will also understand the social mores of the UAE and will remain in the country for the long haul, allowing a relationship of trust and respect to develop, compared to doctors from overseas who often do a short stint here before returning to their homelands. And finally, this fits squarely with the goal of creating a knowledge-based economy. The medical sector tends to produce highly skilled and highly paid jobs.

Investing in the UAE’s human capital is as important as building new hospitals with state of the art equipment. As the McKinsey report said: “Without the right staff, the best equipment can stand unused and the most up-to-date techniques may not necessarily be in full practice.”