Al Hayat International Hospital was established 25 years ago. Where is the institution headed over the coming years?
We are planning to expand our services by launching a new 100-bed hospital in Muscat within the next four years. The new hospital will focus on cardiology and orthopedics, building on our strengths and adding new departments. We are expanding because it is one of the main ways to strike the right balance to pursue volume. When you do high volume work, your prices can be competitive without compromising on quality, which we intend to leverage to push tertiary care to higher standards. At the same time, we intend to open satellite clinics across Oman. We have three clinics in Muscat, but we intend to build 10 additional facilities in Muscat and 20 additional clinics elsewhere in Oman. Our plan is to get all these facilities and clinics operational by the time the new hospital is ready. We are moving in that direction and are in touch with investors both within and outside the country.
How do you expect the healthcare sector to contribute to non-oil GDP, and what role does the private sector play in this?
The government has been focusing on tourism and the healthcare industry can complement its initiatives by improving the standard of service. If Oman's healthcare sector is up to international standards, people from certain developing countries in Africa and Asia will choose Oman for medical treatment. Today, many patients are traveling from Oman to Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. We would like our hospitals to contribute to the reversal of that trend so that people from other countries come here for treatment. That means that the service has to improve and prices have to be highly competitive. Oman is reducing reliance on public hospitals by redirecting people to private facilities. By doing so, the state is auditing private hospitals more to make sure they meet minimum standards and follow best international practices. The government outsources diagnostics and treatment only after a thorough reviewal and approval process.
What are the main reasons behind the low treatment costs in Oman?
One reason is insurance and the introduction of auditing managers in the healthcare industry, which are able to control costs better. Another factor is the decline in the doctors' share of fees in developed countries. The second point is new technology, which is IT based. By using new technology, hospitals are able to reduce costs. Despite all these factors, the cost of treatment has not fallen quite as much because it is expensive to invest in new medicines and technologies.
What are the advantages of Oman developing an autonomous R&D sector?
At present, Oman is able to manufacture the medicines it needs. As a result, dependence on imports is declining. The cost of drugs we use has fallen tremendously in recent years. Oman is also manufacturing generics. At the same time, Oman has the ability to manufacture medical consumables that do not involve highly advanced technology and are commonly used in hospitals. Manufacturing such products will help control prices in Oman.