Crown Prince launches new medical tourism initiative in Dubai
Author : DoctorInternet.info
Sheikh Hamdam, Crown Prince of Dubai summoned the top officials of various government and private sector bodies to a weekend meeting where he emphasised the need for all of them including the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Dubai Department of Tourism to work together to promote his latest medical tourism initiative. The prince made it clear that he will no longer tolerate poor promotion, inter-departmental squabbling and the undermining of promotions by the health authority sending citizens overseas for treatment.
Dubai Health Authority's (DHA) new initiative on medical tourism is aimed at boosting the international status of Dubai as a destination for medical tourism through concerted efforts of all departments and their private sector counterparts. A new task force will be an overall co-ordinating body to promote the city.
Sheikh Hamdan wants the DHA to promote medical treatment, cosmetic treatment, spa and wellness services. The initiative is part of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015.
The target for health tourism is Dh6.1 billion by the end of 2012. The main market will be other Gulf states. Dubai wants to attract people from nearby countries and stop its citizens going to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar for high-end medical services. While the official line from Dubai Healthcare City is still that it sees Europe and America as target markets, an increasing number of doctors admit that almost all American and European business is either working expatriates or holidaymakers. Adding air travel costs to high prices means that DHC cannot compete either on price, or unique facilities, for European or American medical tourists.
Dubai Healthcare City says that 15% of 502,000 patients who sought care in 2011 were medical tourists; up from just 5% of 231,000 patients in 2009. So from 2009 to 2011 the number of medical tourists rose from 46,000 to 75,000.
While Dubai has been concentrating on the Gulf, USA and Europe, other UAE states have been more progressive, RAK Hospital has been opening small offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria to find out more about the kinds of patients who are travelling abroad for treatment. It has also been putting together its own treatment packages that include airline tickets, visitor visas and negotiated rates at partner hotels near its base in Ras Al Khaimah.The hospital plans to open offices in Russia, Pakistan, Kenya and Uganda to expand this business further.
Dubai healthcare facilities are working to keep local patients from travelling elsewhere for treatment - and boosting the medical-tourism sector of competing countries. Dr Ayesha Abdullah of Dubai Healthcare City explains,” One of the challenges that the UAE faces is stiff competition from popular medical destinations such as India and South East Asia that also provide competitive medical care. Another challenge is many patients still prefer to get medical care outside the UAE."
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, which is scheduled to open next year, is encouraging local residents to seek treatment there while it also tries to attract medical tourists from other states including Dubai.
All hospitals in Dubai have been given a deadline to acquire international accreditations in an effort to raise standards in the healthcare sector. The Dubai Health Authority has given all hospitals operating in the emirate until the end of this year to get or begin the process of getting accreditation. The DHA says that 61% of hospitals already have accreditation, while 29p% are in the process of obtaining it, but 10 % of hospitals have not begun the process of accreditation yet. It takes at least 2 years to get JCI accreditation. The DHA is working on a set of guidelines to govern medical tourism. Facilities would be categorised by cost, with minimum standards and customer protection rules in place.
There are two flaws with this latest Dubai initiative. David Hadley of EHL Management Services, which manages The City Hospital and Welcare Hospital thinks, “There are not enough highly specialised services that other countries do not offer.” Dr Ionnis Michael Salivaras of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgey Hospital in Dubai adds, “Many people travel for treatment due to lower costs. But our costs are not lower so most people who travel here first look for access to quality health care, followed by privacy, and their last concern would be costs."
Dubai has thrown a lot of money at building new hospitals and DHCC. For this, the most recent of several initiatives, the ruler has taken control; but only time will tell if this high-price state can deliver.
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