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Robert Ball

UAE, ABU DHABI - Health & Education

There in a Flash

CEO, National Ambulance


Robert Ball is the CEO of National Ambulance, a company that provides emergency pre-hospital care in the UAE to public and private industry. He was a founding member of the National Ambulance Company and appointed CEO shortly after joining the company as the COO. Together with his Deputy Ahmed Al Hajeri, they are responsible for the development of National Ambulance as the leading pre-hospital care organization in the UAE.

"Our fleet has increased over the past four years to just over 100 vehicles."

How do you invest in the training and development of your staff?

Everyone here has a part to play, from the administration team to the finance team, in supporting the paramedics and EMTs out on the roads. We have invested quite heavily in training. Our training is specific to our needs and is a major part of our core business. Our training teams cover all areas of basic life support to pediatrics and advanced coronary care. Our trainers are in house and our courses are registered with the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and are scrutinized and accredited. We even have hospitals that are asking us to come and train their staff. Training, for us, is a part of our DNA—it is what we do. Our staff has a tough job to do. They work in shifts. They are exposed to a great deal of trauma; therefore, we provide peer support networks to assist them. It is essential for us that we look after our staff. Our turnover rate for staff is less than 2% over four years, which we are very proud of. We look after our people and we provide competitive compensation and benefits. The Clinical Medical Education training we provide is a best practice. I frequently receive feedback from staff who say that if they were back in their previous country they would have to pay for their training or just never get access to it.

How has your fleet grown over the years, and how are you looking to develop it further?

Our fleet has increased over the past four years to just over 100 vehicles. Ahmed Al Hajeri led the design of the vehicles so they would meet the demands of the environment we work in. The fleet is deployed across the UAE. The largest public deployment of our ambulances is in the Northern Emirates. We are providing a basic life support service in the Northern Emirates with 24 ambulances operating 24/7. We have invested in brand new ambulances based on the Mercedes-Benz 324 chassis, which is a reliable frame for this type of service. We get them sent directly from Germany to our Ambulance converter in the UK, and then we ship them here. The Northern Emirates has the most advanced ambulance fleet in the Middle East. We are currently in Phase I of this project. In Phase II, we will add more vehicles and crew.

“Our fleet has increased over the past four years to just over 100 vehicles.”

How successful has the service been in the Northern Emirates?

We are very proud of the way in which the service has been received in the Northern Emirates. The response by the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Our staff are co-located with the staff from other emergency services. When we are dealing with multiple casualty incidents this training makes them more effective when getting to and treating patients. Perhaps the greatest form of recognition for the work of our team has come from HH Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman, who has allocated a plot of land for constructing the Northern Emirates headquarters in Ajman.

What sort of operational model do you implement at National Ambulance?

There are two different models. The Franco-German model is where a doctor is part of the ambulance crew, and they go from the hospital to the patient and back. What we provide is an Anglo-American model of service where we have emergency medical technicians and paramedics as the team go to the patient and take them to the most appropriate hospital; that is the model that works best here. EMTs have a scope of practice that allows them to provide basic life support skills, while paramedics have a more advanced scope of practice that allows them to provide additional interventions and provide advanced life support.

What sort of technology do you use to enhance efficiency and reduce response times?

Response times are one metric that is often used when people look at Ambulance services. It’s important that patients received the most appropriate level of care as quickly as possible. In the Northern Emirates we are continuing to improve our response times. As our fleet increases this will allow more ambulances to be deployed in the area. In terms of technology, we use computer-aided dispatch. One of the challenges here in the UAE, and something people take for granted in the US, for example, is that you can pick up the phone and order something and get all the information through the call line number identification. That system is being rolled out progressively in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and will eventually be rolled out in the rest of the UAE. Internally we have developed systems that allow us to locate someone quickly. We will continue to refine this process and look for ways to move resources as quickly as possible to patients. We leverage technologies from all over the world. We have a local company as our system integrator and use Google map databases, the King County Criteria Based Dispatch system for triage, and our Computer Aided dispatch system was developed by a regional company. We have also implemented a pre-alert system that allows our dispatchers to advise a receiving hospital if a serious injury is coming to their emergency department. This pre-alert allows the doctors to make appropriate arrangements prior to the patient arriving. The alert system has been well received by the hospitals in the Northern Emirates. The development of an Electronic Patient Care Record (EPCR), which we are using in the Northern Emirates, is an example of how we are leveraging technology and bringing best practices to the UAE.

© The Business Year – March 2015



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