At last year's WEF Saudi German Hospital was awarded the Global Growth Award. What impact does this have on the objectives of Saudi German Hospital going forward?
International recognition from the WEF always gives a positive push. International recognition by a platform such as the WEF gives reassurance that we are on the right track. Our group vision 28 years ago was to establish a successful healthcare organization, and we began by building hospitals in cities throughout the GCC. To expand in the healthcare industry is complicated, and successful implementation is very difficult. Considering SGH's aggressive rate of expansion, recognition is therefore rewarding and will only propel our efforts forward.
What is the objective of SGH here in Dubai?
After establishing ourselves in Yemen, we expanded to Dubai with the same objectives; it was a strategic move. We want SGH in Dubai to be a successful part of the Group and also to be part of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum's vision for healthcare within the Emirate itself. Dubai is a healthy environment for investment with much potential. We have given a tremendous level of importance to developing our hospitals from scratch, and we have a unique vision for how we will grow in Dubai. Phase I of our establishment is complete; a 300-bed tertiary hospital. Our long-term plan is to create a Saudi German Healthcare City in Dubai, which will consist of a general hospital, main hospital, and six sub-specialty hospitals, along with a medical tower. We are already in Phase II of our plan, which includes adding three specialty hospitals. Our hope is to have the Phase II completed by World Expo 2020.
In Dubai's competitive healthcare landscape, what strategic advantage does Saudi German Hospital possess?
Of course it is very difficult to enter a market that is already saturated. We have had to prove ourselves in a very short amount of time in order to capture and keep a customer segment; this has been a driving factor for establishing our reputation. To enter a market already dominated by private and public-sector players and establish ourselves, we had to put a tremendous amount of energy into building a management team and a base of skilled, world-class physicians. We used this combination of talent and experience to identify market needs and work closely with government regulators and players. We feel that we are all partners in the development of a world-class healthcare city.
How does SGH see medical tourism as an opportunity for growth?
The UAE in itself represents a great opportunity for growth. Due to our reputation and expertise, we are able to attract what we call domestic medical tourists, meaning those living in other Emirates who travel to our hospital for treatment. Within this segment of customers, we are able to attract referrals from other hospitals within the UAE whose patients need advanced or specialized procedures. With the growing population of Emiratis travelling abroad, we have also seen an influx of what we call reverse medical tourists; those patients returning from abroad to have medical operations done here or continue their treatment plans. Finally, we see a tremendous opportunity in the traditional medical tourism segment coming from the GCC, Africa, and Asia.
Recently the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) imposed a price-cap on the increased cost of healthcare services at 4.22%. Looking forward, how will this affect operations at SGH?
We understand the rationale behind the DHA's decision. However, we want to underscore the importance of two-way communication between hospitals and the authorities, to ensure that the price-cap is implemented in a way that benefits everyone. Insurance companies and other players as well will be affected. Due to the recent announcement of these regulations, the healthcare investment climate has chilled slightly because investors are concerned about their returns; the same goes for SGH. While there are many concerns about these regulations, ultimately we are confident that through free-flowing communication between all industry stakeholders, we can ensure that the sector continues to be both profitable and socially beneficial.