A Healthy Way Forward

Gulf Insider interviews Dr Mariam Al-Jalahma, CEO of the National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA).
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What would you say is your leadership style, and how has it helped you navigate this period?

I would say that during this period I applied a style that is responsive to crisis, a style that accepts change and thinks outside the box while seeking how to maintain the business without affecting services.

How did the decision come about to license private hospitals to conduct COVID-19 tests?

While the government is fully committed to contact tracing and free testing for all symptomatic persons,there were requests from companies and individuals to undertake PCR testing for individuals who do not fit the case definition. Since the Public health lab has the capacity to do the tests, it was decided that private sector could provide the swab collection through their facilities, provided they apply the required standards. That’s why it’s called elective testing, because it does not fulfill case definition and has no medical requirements except reassurance.

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Telemedicine has surged in popularity during this time. What are your thoughts on this?

The NHRA approved telemedicine in early 2019. We have also published regulatory guidelines on our website, so when the pandemic occurred, approved telemedicine companies were already providing services. In 2020 we added e-prescription guidelines as well.

What changes do you think are here to stay, in the healthcare industry?

I feel telemedicine, providing services beyond the boundaries of the health care facilities, strict infection control and waste management protocols are here to stay.

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There are newly in place a lot of import and export regulations for medical equipment, can you tell us more about its significance?

In 2015, NHRA published the first regulatory guideline on importation of medical devices. Medical devices are essential for safe and effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of illness and disease. That’s why medical device compliance is important. It guarantees patients that the device they are using is, in fact, safe.

By implementing NHRA regulations we were able to prevent importation of counterfeit devices. In 2019, NHRA rejected 23% (2160) of the total applications either due to counterfeit certificate or counterfeit devices.


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