HEALTH AND WEALTH

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Raza Siddiqui, CEO of the Arabian Healthcare Group, on efforts to boost medical tourism, expanding into specialty care, and prospects for the healthcare sector.

Dr. Raza Siddiqui
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Raza Siddiqui is CEO of the Arabian Healthcare Group. He has been in the UAE for over 15 years, during which time he created a few signature projects, including RAK Hospital and the RAK College of Medical Sciences. He has also been actively involved in the development of ETA’s Dubai Lifestyle City. He first came to the UAE while working as Director, International Operations, for the Apollo Hospitals Group. Siddiqui received his college education in Delhi and earned his MBA degree from the US.

What has RAK Hospital done to become a medical tourism destination?

The fact that the UAE is so centrally located works to our advantage. Building on that, we have taken several initiatives to put RAK Hospital on the global tourism map. People receive the best medical treatment offered in the West at a fraction of the cost. One feature that makes us unique is our perfect blend of hospital services and hospitality traits. We offer spa services, quality rehabilitative care, a concierge service, and a homely and welcoming ambiance that complements the natural beauty of Ras Al Khaimah. Moreover, we also offer health packages specifically designed for medical tourists to make their travel arrangements and stay more comfortable and hassle-free. Today, RAK Hospital receives patients from 10 to 15 countries. Generally, patients visit the hospital for surgical procedures for heart or neuro surgery and joint replacement as well as rehabilitation. We have partnered with Swiss brand Sonnenhof Swiss-Health Ltd, one of the world's oldest medical tourism destinations, to boost our offering of premium healthcare and hospitality. We are now in our eighth year of operations and see more than 700 outpatients. Now we are at full capacity and moving into the next phase of expansion, in which the hospital will add 80 to 90 more beds in 2017.

What else can be done to promote Ras Al Khaimah as a medical tourist destination?

A physical presence in other countries makes a great difference. RAK Hospital, for example, has offices in more than 10 countries to help convert that potential. Ras Al Khaimah is already a popular tourism destination, so the focus should be to combine the medical expertise offered in the Emirate with promoting it as the place to relax and recuperate. More importantly, we should work to make RAK self-sufficient in terms of providing services to medical tourists, and already we can see that happening. For RAK Hospital, it is a bigger challenge because we are still new in the UAE healthcare sector. Having said that, there is no denying that we have made giant leaps and carved a niche for ourselves.

Why are you moving into specialty care?

While RAK Hospital has always contributed towards public healthcare, we have identified specific areas where we can support the community even further. Our specialities include cardiac, orthopedic, diabetes, rehabilitative, and eye care among others. There is a need to address each of the related ailments individually since we see a rise in all these health concerns among the UAE population. We have tried to keep a holistic approach towards all of them and brought in various campaigns to create awareness among the population.

What are your expansion plans for pharmacies and medical centers?

We will open the first pharmacy in Dubai soon and also explore the feasibility of opening a few hospitals in the region. However, we want to cater to the demands of the UAE first before exploring options in Oman, which likewise has huge potential and undersupply.

What is your outlook for the UAE healthcare sector?

The UAE healthcare sector will boom for the next 50 years and the country will become a major player on the world map of medical tourism. Given the right mix we offer—JCI accredited hospitals, top-notch medical and technological expertise from around the globe, convenient strategic location, easy visa access, and logistical arrangements—we have the infrastructure to move in the right direction. The Dubai airport sees more than 2,000 patients every day who transit from here to other medical tourist destinations. Why not treat them here? The scope is tremendous.

What are your prospects for the year ahead?

We are doing well and are working on a number of expansion plans. Currently we focus on attracting more international patients. We also want to open in new markets such as Pakistan and Afghanistan as these countries have health issues that we have solutions for.