25 Apr 2012

5th German-Arab Health Forum

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

It is my pleasure to be with you at this 5th German-Arab Health Forum in Munich.

I would like to take a moment to thank the organizers for their kind invitation and personally, the President of GHORFA, Dr Thomas Bach, and His Excellency Professor Shobokshi, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Doyen of the Arab Ambassadors in Germany, for their opening speeches.

Indeed, Germany is a strong and reliable partner for the Arab world, in general, and for the United Arab Emirates and Dubai, in particular. For decades, we have enjoyed an excellent relationship and have drawn on one another’s strengths.

While this is true for all aspects of our relations – political, economic and social – Germany plays an especially important role in our healthcare relations. This forum, therefore, is an important and indispensable platform to embark on exciting business endeavors, meet old associates and make new contacts.

When we talk about Arab-German healthcare relations and our cooperation in this field, we should bear in mind that we are not only talking about numbers and statistics … or about sales and growth rates.

In healthcare, more than any other industry, we are talking about people.

Technological advancements in healthcare, however economically beneficial, are first and foremost improvements of human life. And the Arab-German cooperation in this field promotes the well-being of people from both sides.

The reality behind the rising demand for healthcare can be harsh. We cannot escape these realities but we can alleviate them, relieve them and confront them.

This is what healthcare is about.

Having seen where the demand for healthcare comes from and what the real tasks of any healthcare provider are, we also know the target of all healthcare efforts: the individual patient.

The high quality of healthcare professionals, coupled with major advancements in technology, robust research efforts and the expansion of academic programs have made substantial progress in helping patients live longer and healthier, while benefiting from a higher quality of life.

In a world that is rapidly changing, we must continue to seek new ways to meet the needs of today’s patients. We must create a modern healthcare system that provides every patient the right care, in the right way, and at the right time. Access, affordability, innovation and high quality care should be the benchmarks of each and every healthcare system around the world.

In the United Arab Emirates and especially in Dubai, we have committed ourselves to this approach in healthcare and have pledged, in our vision for 2021, “to invest continually to build world-class healthcare infrastructure, expertise and services”.

The UAE is only 40-years old, and despite it being so young, the healthcare system has evolved tremendously. Never has there been a more exciting time for the industry than the present.

The Dubai Healthcare City Authority, the governing body of Dubai Healthcare City, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center, and the Center for Healthcare Planning and Quality, is working together with the Dubai Health Authority and the UAE’s Ministry of Health, to elevate the industry to a new level of excellence.

Together, we are committed to changing the landscape of healthcare across the Emirates.

It goes without saying that Germany and the German healthcare industry can and will be strong and reliable partners in turning our vision into reality. This is one of the reasons why, last year, the UAE signed a cooperation pact with Germany’s Ministry of Health. At present, Dubai Healthcare City is home to more than 70 German speaking specialists and a number of German pharmaceutical and industrial giants like Siemens, Drager, Bayer and Boehringer Ingleheim, who are important players in the healthcare domain.

The UAE has made strong advancements and tremendous progress in the past. Today, we have more people who live longer and enjoy better lives than ever before. This is a success, and at the same time, a challenge for our healthcare system.

I often say that the biggest bank buster for healthcare is success. Our success makes people live longer and the longer people live, the more healthcare treatment they will need – an amazing development for any economist and businessman: supply creating demand.

Indeed, in the whole region we can see the factors pushing healthcare demands to new highs.

The number of residents living in the GCC is expected to exceed 50 million by the year 2020. At the same time, as our populations continue to rise, we will live much longer. In 1999, life expectancy in the UAE stood at roughly 74 years. A decade later it reached 76 years. In the same period, infant mortality in the UAE decreased from 113 to 64 for every 10,000 live births.

It is important to keep in mind the speed of these developments in the Emirates, particularly Dubai. After all, life expectancy back in 1960 was just 51 years.

These developments have a profound impact on the demographic composition of our society and therefore, naturally, also on our healthcare systems.

As the region’s second largest healthcare market, the UAE accounts for 20% of all healthcare expenditures in the GCC countries. The total UAE healthcare market reached $7 billion dollars in 2009, up from $5.6 billion dollars in 2007. It is projected that the UAE healthcare market will reach $12 billion dollars by 2015.

The UAE plays a leading role in the healthcare sector across the Middle East. Nowhere else in the region are there more Joint Commission International certified medical facilities than in the UAE. It is certainly no coincidence that Dubai annually hosts Arab Health, the second largest medical trade fair in the world.

Dubai has reinforced its image as an international medical hub, providing all the required infrastructure and resources to flourish in a competitive market environment. Located strategically between Europe and South East Asia, Dubai is the commercial hub for the Middle East-North Africa region and provides a unique offering to healthcare investors who want to establish in the region – a factor which has lured many German companies to the UAE, particularly Dubai – and, Dubai Healthcare City Authority, with its supportive structure, has made that transition possible.

My husband, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, founded and established Dubai Healthcare City in 2002. His goal was to create a regional center of excellence for patient-centered care and an internationally renowned hub for integrated medical services.

Today, Dubai Healthcare City is home to two hospitals and over 90 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with more than 2000 licensed professionals.

In line with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s vision, we remain committed to supporting and promoting high quality education and research by creating a platform to grow, attract and retain healthcare professionals through home-grown, extensive academic and research programs.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center is the foundation of Dubai’s clinical, research and education structure. In its partnership with renowned academic institutions, it will establish world-class medical education and research programs to create a sustainable healthcare workforce, allowing UAE residents to be treated closer to home.

With Germany’s vast offerings academic facilities, technological institutions and research accomplishments, it is appropriately situated to offer its experience to the region.

The Teaching Hospital at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center will provide high quality care for patients and a wide variety of learning opportunities for students and resident doctors pursuing careers as specialized physicians, nurses or other healthcare professionals.

The Teaching Hospital will be supported by a library, a simulation center, continuous professional development programs and a research support office, all of which will, in turn, further promote our medical education and research platform.

As part of our healthcare education and training, the Khalaf Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Center, also at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Center, will offer a hands-on opportunity to practice optimal patient care, encourage critical thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration among our medical teams.

Education is a key component of DHCA and will provide a platform for deeper collaborations towards strengthening the learning culture across the Emirate of Dubai.

In addition to DHCA’s thriving healthcare community, Dubai is home to 30 hospitals, catering to a number of specialities, employing clinical and non-clinical staff from various diverse cultural backgrounds. These facilities have gained international accreditation and are a reflection of Dubai’s infrastructure to offer expertise in the region.

As healthcare in Dubai gains even more momentum, we continue to identify existing gaps in care. There is a great demand for paediatric care; the Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, an initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, will, by 2013, be home to centres of excellence for cardiology, oncology, neurology and mental health.

This will require a great deal of expertise for clinical knowledge, building its academic and research components, as well as its operations.

All these facts are proof that the development of healthcare in the UAE, as it strives to meet high international standards, is, undoubtedly, heading in the right direction. However, as with any system, there is still so much to learn.

I have personally experienced the successful cooperation between our countries and the positive impact it has had on our nations. I am confident that this Forum will open new avenues for synergy and cooperation and forge new relationships for the advancement of the healthcare industry for the greater good of the people of Dubai.

Together, we can achieve more than each one of us alone.

Thank you.