With Dubai set to become the medical tourism hub of the GCC, designer hospitals and premium healthcare services are fast becoming big business, say insiders.
According to Dr P Mohanakrishnan, Director of Planning at Eurohealth Systems, more and more people are ready to shell out extra cash for the right ambience and hospitality, along with their medical treatments.
“Even now there is a need for more hospitals in the UAE,” says Mohanakrishnan.
“Healthcare is all about service to humanity and we cannot deny it is big business.” According to a recent study conducted by McKinsey and Company, demand for medical treatment is set to rise by 240 per cent within the next 20 years in the GCC.
The demand for hospital beds in the region will also more than double, requiring almost 162,000 beds with the UAE and Saudi Arabia registering the greatest percentage increase, the study says.
Dubai Healthcare City, the ambitious Dh6 billion “city-within-a-city” project is nearing completion and is expected to be fully functional by 2008. Once completed, the development will consist of various medical institutions, private hospitals and clinics, research centres, pharmaceutical offices and spas and rehabilitation zones, along with residential villas and five-star hotels.
Mohanakrishnan, whose company has helped set up and revamp a number of existing hospitals in the city, including the premium Medcare Hospital in Jumeirah, says the need for designer hospitals is fuelled by growing demand. “Our Dh4,500-a-night rooms at the Medcare Hospital have a long waiting list and people are willing to pay the amount to get in there,” he says.
Ala Atari, CEO of Medcare Hospital, says there is a major demand for beautifully designed hospitals.
“Medical research has proven that beautiful interiors promote healing. This is because people do not like going to hospital as it causes them a lot of stress and anxiety. But if they walk into a hospital that looks or smells like a hotel then it relaxes them, de-stresses them and puts them in a more positive frame of mind. This in turn promotes healing,” he says. An official from the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed earlier this year that the UAE spends an average of Dh7 billion annually on medical treatment outside the country.
Every year, more than 600 million people travel around the world for medical treatment and the UAE is looking to attract a percentage of that, he added.
According to Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman of Dr Moopen’s Group, “Even though the UAE is a young country, one major thing that is going to revolutionise healthcare here is the Dubai Healthcare City. It will cater to nearly one billion people in the Mena region.
“The facilities that are being planned there are in association with major players in Western countries such as Mayo Clinic. So one can rest assure to receive the latest treatment in state-of-the-art hospitals.
Dr Robinder Singh, CEO of Royal Hospital, a state-of-the-art healthcare facility in Sharjah, says his centre is hoping to change the trend of UAE residents travelling abroad for treatment. “We are determined to change that. We are a super-speciality hospital that has the best doctors and teams and visiting consultants in all fields from across the world,” he says. “Not only that, we also have a medical spa in our hospital, which is a first in the region.”
Eurohealth Systems’ Mohanakrishnan says the cost of setting up these luxury medical facilities averages about Dh1.5 million per bed and that patients are charged “international rates”. “Medcare was commissioned nine months ago and in one year it will break even,” he says.
However, Medcare chief Atari says setting up cost does not necessarily trickle down to the patients. “Hospitals have other ways to make money. We have used such material and technology in our hospital that will help keep infection at bay. This way we save money,” he says.
“Also, we give our patients world-class treatment. We do not make money from our walls, we make money from our service.”
Medical treatment is a big business around the world, with many countries trying to attract patients with top facilities.