What is being done regarding the prevention of non-communicable diseases in Ras Al Khaimah?
RAZA SIDDIQUI Almost 20% of the UAE's population has been diagnosed with diabetes, which is a large figure and is becoming a massive burden on the healthcare system. If this disease is not brought under control, then it threatens to consume the entire healthcare budget. We have recently conducted a number of studies and found that nearly half the diabetic population does not know that they are diabetic, which is a major problem. We have also found that nearly 15% of the population is pre-diabetic. If we do not work to improve their lifestyle, they will soon become diabetic. Therefore, we have been encouraging the population to do more regular check-ups. The only solution is to create awareness and develop management plans for individuals who already suffer from the disease.
MYUNG-WHUN SUNG Diabetes is the biggest problem in the UAE. We have thus begun to hold promotional activities and campaigns to stress the importance of preventative healthcare. We are one of the only three hospitals in the UAE with a radiation service. Our new system enables us to provide radiation therapy to patients based on real-time monitoring using MRI. We want to position ourselves in this area and become a medical tourism hub for cancer patients. We can provide radiation therapies to patients who have been treated in hospitals in other countries and surgeons. We have already started combined packages for visitors staying in specific hotels to make it easier for them.
What is the role of the healthcare sector in Ras Al Khaimah's plans for economic diversification?
RS The health sector contributes a great deal to the economy, and we expect it to play an even greater role as more health tourists come to the city. We are working on developing a holistic approach that incorporates the RAK TDA into the equation. Ras Al Khaimah receives around 1 million tourists every year, and we are working on promoting more medical tourism. A typical tourist spends about AED500 (USD136) per night and stays for four nights. A medical tourist, on the other hand, will spend a minimum of USD5,000. Health is a viable and vibrant contributor to the economy in the long term. Despite its future potential, the healthcare sector is facing some issues. The cost of healthcare is rising because it is manpower and technology intensive. We do not have domestic manpower that is sufficiently skilled so we frequently rely on expensive resources from abroad. In the past, India and Pakistan supplied the majority of the skilled medical professionals; however, the growing domestic demand in India and Pakistan has pulled those professionals back. The governments need to fix these issues for the sector to play an even bigger role in the economy.
MS Since we came here, we have witnessed significant and ongoing development. Due to the increasing influx of tourists in Ras Al Khaimah, we have begun to see activities in conventions regarding attracting patients from Russia, India, and the GCC. In certain areas, tourist attractions might be more attractive than the healthcare; however, in most cases the focus should be to take great care of the patient as that is the core of medical tourism. In order to push the industry's success further, the government has asked the sector to transfer as much knowledge as possible to the community. To this end, we invited many clinical, non-clinical, and administrative participants here; we also hold regular important conferences on heart, urine, and oncology issues. We have also developed many training programs for various positions such as clinicians, nurses, and other administrative staff. Since the sector is dependent on health tourism from Russia, one program that can attract more Russian tourists to Ras Al Khaimah is our high-level executive medical check-up service. Russian tourists coming to Ras Al Khaimah can enjoy the sights as well as receive a healthcare check-up. This is a model that we are pursuing and this has worked out nicely.