Talent and manpower are crucial elements in healthcare transformation, from trained clinicians to nurses, technical experts, and managers, but the GCC’s particularities create unique challenges in this regard. A full 50 percent of the region’s inhabitants are expatriates, a number that rises to 81 percent and 92 percent in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, creating challenges in terms of retaining knowledge in-country.
In Saudi Arabia, to counter this and as part of the country’s Vision 2030 plan, the country launched a ‘Saudization’ drive in 2016, requiring companies to hire Saudi nationals on a quota basis. 3M’s VP & MD for MEA László Svinger feels that this policy has had a positive impact.
“In Saudi Arabia, the localisation framework is about developing a solid educational base for all citizens, instilling values from an early age to prepare its citizens for the future of the local and global labour market,” he contends. “This is great because Vision 2030 is also focused on upskilling citizens by providing lifelong learning opportunities, supporting innovation, and instilling an entrepreneurial culture that can help Saudi be competitive in the long run.”
Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, where the local workforce is much smaller than in Saudi, the focus is more on continuing to attract the best international talent. “In line with the directives of our wise leadership, we will continue to attract and empower international talents who are looking to work and reside in the UAE,” says Abdulla bin Mohamed Al Hamed, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health. “The Department raised over 13,000 Golden Visa nominations representing a wide group of professionals from the healthcare sector in the emirate.”
With the understanding that accessibility to talent is key, Dubai is investing in nurturing local talent and pursing partnerships to that effect with universities such as NYU and Birmingham University
Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, Dubai Science Park
Marwan Abdulaziz Janahi, managing director of Dubai Science Park, trumpets a dual approach. “With the understanding that accessibility to talent is key, Dubai is investing in nurturing local talent and pursing partnerships to that effect with universities such as NYU and Birmingham University,” he notes. “Moreover, Dubai has been able to position itself as a melting pot with more than 200 nationalities by offering lifestyle choices for a wide range of people from Europe, the US, Asia, and Africa.”
However, in the eyes of Tarek El Rahbani, senior regional director for EMEA Growth Emerging Markets – South at Boston Scientific, there is still a long road to travel. “If you zoom in to the number of physicians in certain subspecialties, the region needs lots of physicians, nurses, and facilities; whether you look at Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait or Oman, the whole region is in short supply.”
Another regional medtech head, is more positive, noting how “Over the last decade, the GCC has developed a very strong network of young key opinion leaders that have studied abroad and renowned institutions and now represent our region’s future. They are open to digitalisation and automation and are not set in the old ways of working. They come with a wealth of knowledge and information, and this is reflected in the way in which they treat and converse with patients.”
Fujifilm’s Middle East managing director, Michio Kondo, worries about the fact that international HCPs in the GCC do not tend to stay long in one place, often taking know-how with them when they move on, and leaving a knowledge vacuum that needs to be filled.
We are always thinking about how the company can be more efficient in terms of fostering a better long-term and sustainable healthcare ecosystem. The objective is to train not only our people and business partners, but also include end users and students in our global network
He states, “for this reason, we are always thinking about how the company can be more efficient in terms of fostering a better long-term and sustainable healthcare ecosystem. The objective is to train not only our people and business partners, but also include end users and students in our global network. It is normal for us to bring internationally recognised doctors to the region so they can help build local capabilities. As with any new technology, training is very important.”
The Middle East general manager of another iconic Japanese firm strikes a similar note of caution regarding high levels of staff turnover. “Since the Gulf region is dynamic and people tend to move quickly, we cannot count on retaining those who are used to using our equipment for three, four or five years, as we might in other geographies,” they state.
“When new employees start working here, they obviously do not know how to use our systems as efficiently as those that are used to them. For this reason, we offer an unlimited amount of training, also utilising our digitalisation and AI capabilities to contribute to this educational push.”