UAE Combats COVID-19 with New Field Hospitals

The largest health care network in the United Arab Emirates has established three field hospitals in attempts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) established the hospitals in Mohammed bin Zayed City in Abu Dhabi and in the Emirates Humanitarian City.

Jason English, a YPO member and Chief Ecosystem Officer of CG Tech in Dubai, has been involved with the construction of the hospitals from the beginning.

“When we got the initial call asking if we could assist with building a hospital for 1,000 people in two weeks, our first reaction was, ‘We don’t know how, but we are in,’” English says. “When they asked whether we could double it for the next phase in the same period of time, naturally we all said [yes] and accepted the challenge.”

The first facility was completed in May and is being managed by 200 medical professionals, with the ability to serve 1,200 patients.

Building hospitals

Al Laith forms part of the CG Tech group, which owns numerous companies operating in the petrochemical, power, events and technology space. Since its formation in 1995, it has been involved in providing services and equipment to a number of high-profile industrial and construction projects as well as major sporting and cultural events within the UAE and surrounding countries. When it comes to high-profile projects to be delivered fast, Al Laith has become the go-to partner in the Middle East, English says.

“The hospital builds were exactly that … high profile projects with very short durations for delivery, and so our clients requested our assistance to deliver them in conjunction with various stakeholders,” English says. “The project is being overseen by Blink Experience on behalf of the UAE government, and we were contracted by Al Fares, who have been great clients over the years.”

Al Laith has a diverse international management team that oversees a workforce of nearly 1,000 committed, experienced and knowledgeable team members. These team members are experts in three key areas: access solutions (scaffolding, powered access and mast climbers), site services (site overlay, plant hire and turnkey projects), and engineered event and experiential services (concerts, sporting events and engineered experiences).

The Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center facility will be staffed with 150 medical professionals and serve 1,000 patients; the Dubai Parks and Resorts facility will be staffed with 200 professionals and serve 1,200 patients. These facilities are 31,000 square meters and 29,000 square meters, respectively.

“The UAE’s leadership are paving the way to make sure all necessary precautions and measures are in place as we face the current pandemic,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, chairman of the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, in a press release.

Taking care of UAE residents and patients

The need has been great. United Arab Emirates has seen more than 30,000 cases and more than 250 deaths. While cases continue, there has been a small drop off in daily new cases. To date, UAE also has tested a significant number of people, utilizing drive-through testing centers, which have proven effective in getting a broader population tested quickly and efficiently.

When the first phase of the lockdown lifted, United Arab Emirates saw a spike in new cases, nearly doubling in the first week. Since then, things have been constant, but the government there has a sophisticated sanitation program in place. Every evening, the streets and public areas are sanitized using advanced technology, including drones.

English says that 80% of restrictions have been lifted there with cinemas, gyms and public spaces reopening with some rules in place, mostly around occupancy levels and the isolation of kids under age 12 or adults over age 60.

Aiming for preparedness

In a press release, SEHA Chairman Salem Al Noaimi said the new field hospitals are a precautionary measure to ensure the capabilities are in place, in the event of an influx of positive coronavirus cases.

“By building these field hospitals, the rest of hospital infrastructure can be less strained, and this allows for those that still require professional medical care at traditional hospitals to get better treatment.”  Jason English, Chief Ecosystem Officer CG Holdings

“It is important to emphasize that the establishment of the new field hospitals is not a response to existing demand,” he said.

This cooperation demonstrates the strength of partnership between SEHA and ADNEC, as subsidiaries of ADQ.

“Under the direction of the United Arab Emirates’ leadership and in support of their efforts in combating the virus, we entrust our assets to the nation with the vision that all patients are cared for appropriately during their journey to recovery,” says Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, managing director and group CEO of ADNEC. “The health and well-being of the people of the UAE is our shared responsibility, and we are prepared to play our part.”

English says these hospitals help to keep COVID patients away from mainstream hospitals.

“By building these field hospitals, the rest of hospital infrastructure can be less strained, and this allows for those that still require professional medical care at traditional hospitals to get better treatment. In addition, by taking people out of their home environments, the reduction of contracting and spreading is increased and further saves lives.”

Cause is personal

English says COVID-19 personally has had an impact on his family. He lost a friend to the coronavirus in the UAE, and he’s had many friends and colleagues test positive. He’s had to self-isolate and still has employees who are COVID positive.

“We built isolation facilities for our team and have allocated an entire floor of one of our staff camps for all COVID-positive personnel,” he says.

Taking on a project like constructing field hospitals requires focus.

“It requires commitment toward a common objective, and then it just requires action and a team understanding the purpose, which is to save people,” English says. “This project was completed in around 20 days from the start, which would never be possible without a team that were aligned.”

Meticulous planning – followed by agility to deal with problems – kept things moving forward. From road permits to logistics in the yards to site deliveries and inspection areas to site setup and from people moving from the accommodation camps to engineering designs and approvals – all while the country was in lockdown.

“It’s no easy feat,” English says. “It requires government support and typical rules of business protocol to be broken down – competitors to work with each other instead of against each other, and contractors to work in conjunction with each other and never blame, but just do.”

For more crisis leadership stories like these, check out the COVID-19: Leading Through Crisis page on YPO.org. All YPO members can find breaking news, offer insights and view current discussions happening about COVID-19 impact within the YPO community on the YPO member-only platform.

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