A COVID-19 drive thru test centre in Dubai
A COVID-19 drive-through test centre in Dubai. According to a KPMG report published in 2017, from 2013 to 2017, the number of hospitals in the UAE grew from 107 to 137. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Leading health care professionals in the country have welcomed the Waterfall initiative announced on Wednesday by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to train over one million health care workers.

Even as the world struggles to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with over 20 million cases and close to 750,000 deaths, the UAE, which has been on the path to successfully controlling the infection rates in the country, has risen above its own borders to demonstrate its solidarity with the rest of the world by announcing this initiative.

See more

What is the Waterfall Initiative?

The “Waterfall” initiative offers a virtual medical training across 14 medical sectors. It will be carried out in partnership with 140 experts and 67 academic institutions and training centres from around the world.

This largest global initiative for continuous learning and specialised training to be launched by the UAE will be implemented under the follow-up and supervision of Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior.

Lauding the initiative, Abdul Rahman Al Owais, UAE’s Minister of Health and Prevention said: “It will enhance UAE’s position as a regional and international capital for cross border medical and humanitarian initiatives.”

The importance of health care warriors

In the last six months, we have seen the vital role that doctors, nurses, paramedics, diagnostic personnel, ward boys, among others in hospitals, have played in combating the pandemic across the planet, putting in back-breaking work, saving lives, very often at the risk of their own health and lives.

Their role in rushing to patient homes, attending to the outpouring of patients at the Emergency Rooms, triaging, isolating and going beyond the call of duty in saving lives, has shown the unprecedented expansion of the role of health care workers and the need to augment this force.

UAE, regional health care leader

The UAE has been the regional leader in augmenting its health care force. According to a KPMG report published in 2017, from 2013 to 2017, the number of hospitals in the UAE grew from 107 to 137. As of 2017, the UAE had 13,200 hospital beds, representing a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 4.8 per cent in that period.

In 2018, the UAE government contributed 66 per cent of the country’s total health care spending of $15 billion. Going forward, the private health care sector is expected to witness stronger growth. From 2018 to 2022, the private sector health care spending is set to grow at a CAGR of 9.5 per cent compared the government contribution of 4.4 per cent.

In a webinar held a fortnight ago to announce Dubai’s preparedness in 2020, Dr Marwan Al Mulla, CEO of the health regulation sector at the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), had disclosed that as of June 2020, Dubai had 39,472 health care professionals. From January to June 2020, DHA had licensed and approved the practice of 2,588 health care professionals. In the same period, 3,397 health facilities had been licensed to operate with 45 of these newly established ones.

Considering such a track record in health care, it is of little surprise that visionary leaders have undertaken the responsibility of standing up for the world and conducting virtual training of up to 1 million health care professionals.

What UAE health care leaders have to say 

Dr Sherif Beshara

Sherif Beshara, the CEO of American Hospital: “This initiative reveals the UAE’s readiness to lead as a pioneer in supporting the international medical fraternity, employing innovative techniques. This project will be a front-runner in improving the quality of life of many people and raise the level of medical performance.”

Dr Raza Seddiqui, Group CEO of Arabian Health Care Group and MD of RAK Hospital: “In a time when mature health care systems in the US and Europe have collapsed in the face of this unprecedented global medical crisis this exemplary initiative by the UAE shows what you need most in health care is a deep seated commitment and sense of collective responsibility which UAE leadership has shown. It has demonstrated the right attitude, its readiness to enhance the skill set of the health care force with continuing medical education which is the need of the hour. 

Dr Raza Seddiqui

We have seen during this pandemic while the role of the doctor is relatively smaller, it is the army of care -givers — the nurses, paramedics, biomedical staff, technicians, pathologists and radiologists who have played the key role in managing patients round-the-clock under the most challenging circumstances. The initiative talks of the virtual training which also demonstrates the technological advances in digital and AI led health systems. Now, we no longer require hands on training. The same work is taught through technology and simulation and the UAE will do this with resounding success.”

Dr Jamil Ahmed

Dr Jamil Ahmed, Managing Director of Prime Health Care Group: “Time and again the wise leadership of the UAE has always stood in solidarity with the world. The launching of this initiative has demonstrated how the UAE has once again risen to support the ongoing global medical crisis.”

Dr Azad Moopen

Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman of Aster DM Healthcare: "I applaud the Waterfall initiative announced by the leaders. This is a mammoth initiative to train 100 million health care workers to bridge the gap in the availability of trained man power in the sector. This will help to make health care more accessible and affordable by increasing and improving the skill sets. With 25 hospitals , 117 clinics and 238 pharmacies, employing over 21,000 people, we will be happy to support this initiative whole heartedly."