SEHA’s director oversees one of the greatest logistical challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic
‘Don’t worry. This was the phrase that echoed through the mind of Mona Al Hadrami as she undertook one of the greatest logistical challenges facing any individual during the UAE’s COVID-19 response.
The words were spoken by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. He said them as he set Mona a task that would take her the length and breadth of the country and isolate her from her loved ones for a gruelling four-month period – but would also lead to some of the proudest moments of her life.
As Facilities Director and COVID-19 Project Manager of SEHA Ambulatory Healthcare Services, Mona was to oversee the establishment of the country’s network of COVID-19 drive-through screening facilities and vaccination centres. The deadlines for this colossal undertaking were set by the UAE leadership itself. At stake was the health and wellbeing of every person in the emirates.
“The work was very difficult,” said Mona. “It was the start of the pandemic and global lockdowns made securing medical equipment a big challenge. We were travelling all around the country to make sure projects were on track. It was Ramadan and I was fasting while working under the sun. It was the first Ramadan and Eid I spent away from my family. Not being with them was incredibly difficult, but my team became like my second family.
“The moment that stands out was when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed visited our site to monitor progress. He knew the pressure we were under and told us don’t worry’. He gave us positive energy – a feeling that nothing is impossible – and reminded us that our efforts are being recognised. We translated his words into action to keep motivated and prove to the world that we can fight the pandemic.”
A graduate of Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi, Mona’s initial preference was for a career in mechanical or aviation engineering. Instead, she followed her parents into the medical field and took a job at SEHA with such responsibilities as procuring and maintaining medical devices and systems.
“When we heard about the coronavirus, I never thought it would come to the UAE,” she said. “I was planning a vacation but had to cancel it. We held meetings with the entire management to formulate ideas for setting up a national network of Covid-19 drive-through screening and assessment centres. At first, we couldn’t imagine their design and systems, but we worked together to devise a plan.”
Mona was handed the responsibility of ensuring the projects were delivered on time to the correct specifications. Her role took her thousands of kilometres all over the country, often working with suppliers and contractors throughout the night. The importance of her role and exposure to groups of people meant she had to fully isolate from her family.
“My mother is sick with a chronic illness and one of my sisters has immune problems, so it was too much of a risk to be with them in case I infected them,” she said. “I spoke to them regularly and it meant so much to hear how proud they were of me.”
The deadlines faced by Mona and her team were relentless. Once the first batch of drive-through screening centres had been completed, they were instructed to complete another 13 centres throughout the UAE in only 10 days. They then were tasked with overseeing the construction of COVID-19 primary assessment centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. In the final phase of their work, the team managed a project to build vaccination hubs in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain and introduce vaccination services into national screening centres.
“Alhamdulilah, we accomplished all our tasks within the timeframe,” she said. “Looking back, I’m so proud of myself. I’m proud that my management and the leadership believed I was capable of accomplishing these tasks. And I’m proud that I served my country and my community. It was a golden opportunity to make use of all my positive energy to help curb the spread of the virus.”
Giving words of advice to Emirati women inspired by her endeavours, she said: “You have to trust yourself and believe you are not alone. This country offers all the support and empowerment we need. We just need to trust ourselves.”
Mona also praised the Frontline Heroes Office for recognising and supporting those who have taken exceptional measures to protect people’s well-being during the pandemic.
“I couldn’t imagine that one day I would make sacrifices to become a hero to my country,” she said. “It has been the opportunity of a lifetime. Maybe there aren’t many women in our field, but I have proven to myself that I can do it. We were in a race against time and we proved to the whole world that nothing is impossible.”