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Dubai 2016 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mariano Gonzalez, Managing Director of Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, on developing medical tourism in Dubai, expanding operations, and strategic partnerships.

 Mariano Gonzalez
BIOGRAPHY
Mariano Gonzalez was appointed Managing Director of Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai in 2012. Prior to this, he was the Group Chief Operating Officer at Al Noor Hospital Group in Abu Dhabi. He held senior positions in general management before moving into the healthcare sector in 2002. A Spanish national, he relocated to Abu Dhabi in 2008, where he was appointed Hospital Director of Khalifa Hospital before becoming GCOO in 2011. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and was Principal Professor at the Business School San Pablo CEU in Madrid from 2000-2003. He holds professional memberships in a number of groups, including the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Since opening in 2007, you have treated more than 50,000 patients from over 180 countries. What else can be done in order to further boost Dubai as a medical tourism hub?

I have always been intrigued by the role of Dubai as a medical tourism hub, but we are seeing real motivation from the government and other key players. We have been continuously collaborating with Dubai Healthcare City in promoting Dubai as a medical tourism hub. Ophthalmology is one of the top-four demanded treatments from people coming from abroad. Once we fully establish our presence here in the Emirates, we will more actively promote our services in the region. More than 10% of our patients come from abroad without us having done any proactive marketing or branding of our name thanks to our strong reputation. We see patients from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Africa, and even now from the UK. We are also aligned with the government to keep patients here and minimize the number of patients seeking treatment abroad. We have been doing that for eight years, which is yet another reason why we are now opening in Abu Dhabi. There is great potential for medical tourism, but we, along with the regulators and local authorities, need to work collaboratively on the establishment of the drivers of medical tourism, including clinical quality, patient experience, and in terms of creating the brand of Dubai as a medical tourism hub.

Why did you decide to start operations in the Emirate?

Eight years ago, we opened Moorfields with the aim of exploring the market and become the first NHS hospital venture outside of the UK. After consolidating our activities in Dubai, we decided to expand and develop the business throughout the region starting with Abu Dhabi. For the last two years we have been working on our second facility, opening in 1Q2016. We chose Abu Dhabi because 20% of our patients in Dubai travel from there, and we had experience working with local providers in Abu Dhabi. Moorfields is responsible for clinical operations, and our partners are managing the administration as they are experienced healthcare developers in Abu Dhabi. We are capitalizing on the strength of each of our respective entities, combining our strengths into becoming a leader of ophthalmological care in Abu Dhabi. We are also exploring an opportunity in the north of the Emirates that may materialize toward the end of the year. With these three facilities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the north of the Emirates, we will cover ophthalmology in the UAE. After that, we aim to explore the GCC market for further expansion.

How do you expect your partnership with Dubai Medical College to benefit Moorfields?

We are leaders in the eye care industry in the Middle East in terms of clinical practice and formal education delivery. The establishment of clinical practice is an essential first step in the formulation of educational programs that are relevant to the local population. As such, research is the next logical step. We have three main pillars in London, namely practice, education, and research. One of the research units in London is the largest of its kind in the world. In the UK we have a partnership with University College of London. One of our roles in Dubai is to localize the experience and knowledge that we have in London. The contract that we signed with Dubai Medical College aims to provide formal education to undergraduate medical students in the UAE. This is part of our mandate and adds significant value to what we do. Our director of research is a world-renowned researcher in ophthalmology and was knighted last year in the UK. We have a strong clinical governance structure in place, which mirrors the structure in London. We are now implementing governance for education and, once we decide to go ahead with research, we will be well placed.