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What the UAE is doing to harness health agility: the case of COVID-19

According to global reports, from an operational point of view, there is strong pressure on capacity due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which mainly affects domestic air transport and domestic road transport in addition to production in China. As a domino effect, similar pressure is observed in Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States. The Hong Kong government has required civil servants to work from home, while sports venues and museums are closed indefinitely. While quarantine mechanisms have been put in place for the movement of passengers across the Hong Kong-China border, none have addressed the movement of goods. In Singapore, there is no operational impact, but the government has extended travel restrictions for visitors who have recently visited China. In the United States, air and ocean shipments are still under review. The number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing day by day in the last eight weeks.

59 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the UAE. At a time like this, it is critical that governments, the private sector, funders and citizens seize this opportunity to be more alert and swift. In the most recent research by professors at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government - Dubai, three main elements have been identified as the foundations of the structural stress of government agility, including:

    1. Fluency and insight.

    2. Versatility, cooperation and flexibility

    3. Harmony and legality.

This is discussed in more detail at the UAE Public Policy Forum 2020 # UAEPPF2020 under the heading 'Agile Government: Becoming a Guide for the Future'. He highlighted the term "agility", which refers to "the ability of an organization to respond to changes in its environment faster than the pace of these changes." Furthermore, it is critical that the healthcare sector seize this opportunity to become more resilient in the face of the current dilemma caused by COVID-19.

The concept of agility has spread widely in recent years and is becoming increasingly common in traditional service-oriented industries. Agility can help healthcare providers, whether private or public, become more adaptable and resilient to a dynamic global marketplace where the status quo is no longer the norm. It is critical that such a strategic sector has the potential to create robust health policies that can address the inevitable uncertainty associated with such dynamics. This type of adaptation will improve the views of policy makers.

Regarding the sudden outbreak of the recent Coronavirus, the UAE health sector has recognized how some capabilities, be it human resources or capital, have become indispensable. These included:

    1. Transparency and connections between industries everywhere.

    2. Mobility of human resource capacity.

    3. Respond in a timely manner to market requirements.

    4. Flexible and emergency organizational structures.

    5. Validation of management (Tolf et al. 2015).

According to the proposed model (Stephens et al. 2019), one of the three pillars of an agile government - and of internal sectors - is flexibility and foresight. As for the UAE, the country has faced an early unexpected outbreak: In early 2017, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced that it would establish a nerve center for emergency and crisis management throughout the city, in which was signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (Memorandum of Understanding) with Avanza Solutions to implement the project.

The MOU supports Aanza's Smart City Medical Management Platform as an intelligent platform and application that helps save lives. The application provides the Dubai Health Authority with timely data on what is happening in the city.

The project aims to address clinical emergencies and aims to make full use of available data to make timely, evidence-based decisions. With the support of artificial intelligence, the immediate reception of critically ill patients at nearby health centers will help mitigate the impact of the infectious virus that can cause panic to spread faster than the virus itself. With the flexibility that such an initiative provides, the UAE project satisfies to some extent one of the critical aspects of agility in the health sector.

Collaboration and flexibility

"If the healthcare industries want to maintain agile structures, they need to be prepared for constant pressure from clients who constantly strive to improve levels of quality, efficiency of services provided and overall satisfaction" (Moonesar et al. 2020). With the possibility of a large-scale virus outbreak looming, it makes sense to anticipate fluctuations in the demand and supply of essential drugs.

In line with one of the multiple precautionary measures taken by the UAE, the Health Minister confirmed that the country has stockpiled enough drugs to deal with any outbreak of the virus. The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) announced that there are more than 500 employees on board the ship, working 24 hours a day to attend to any emergency situation related to the Coronavirus.

This deployment of personnel required the cooperation of many entities and service providers, both from the public and private sectors. Collaborative views in favor of the resilience of the sector have required the creation of transparent and trustworthy communication channels between all relevant stakeholders and the deployment of medical research and logistical support to combat the virus, according to state officials.

The collaboration helped service providers in both sectors to better prepare and raise alert levels to the highest possible level. Alliances with laboratories from both sectors were invited to participate in containing the outbreak together with contributions from medical providers, providing the market with appropriate protective equipment. The efforts of the National Authority for Competitiveness and Statistics work to link the various procedures of all stakeholders through a central information database that makes decision-making processes more flexible.

Harmony and legality

"This region is concerned with creating stability in the face of rapidly changing environments and turbulent markets. A truly lean healthcare sector is always prepared to deal with unexpected fluctuations away from chaos and at the same time breaking through bureaucratic constraints to achieve state prosperous and much needed stability. " (Moonesar et al. 2020). That said, the Ministry of Health and Prevention confirmed its effective presence with the World Health Organization to follow the latest developments and changes that occur in light of the crisis. This harmony ensures the proper management of any sudden event and maintains the harmony and legitimacy required among all the actors involved.

In the UAE, the health sector is seizing this opportunity to become more resilient and continually improve and strengthen health systems in light of the current dilemma caused by COVID-19.