FILLING THE GAPS

UAE, Dubai 2012 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | REVIEW: HEALTH

Both government regulatory agencies and private sector players have made progress over the past five years by consolidating the healthcare sector and incentivizing pharmaceutical production.

Since reemphasizing the importance of public-private partnerships in the healthcare sector through the formation of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai has redirected its attention to reach higher standards in a variety of segments. The development of hospitals, healthcare zones, clinics, and medical professionals has required heavy investment and participation from both public and private sector players.

However, with government bodies incurring 75% of healthcare expenditures in the UAE, there is still dramatic room for private healthcare penetration. As per capita GDP rises, and private players discover more investment opportunities and niche markets, the healthcare services market in the GCC is expected to grow from $18 billion in 2008 to between $175 billion and $202 billion by 2020, much of which will influence the healthcare sector in Dubai.

In 2011, the Dubai Statistics Centre recorded 20 private, three local, and two federal hospitals operating in the Emirate, with 1,347, 2,049, and 227 beds, respectively. Approximately 4,700 physicians were working in Dubai in 2011.

In 2007, expenditures in the pharmaceuticals market reached $740 million and are expected to reach $1.12 billion by the end of 2012. According to Business Monitor International, drug expenditures in the UAE will reach $2.46 billion by 2014, with a growth rate of 12%. In combination with favorable oil and gas prices that allow for the expansion of health infrastructure in the Emirates, and the establishment of free zones that offer incentives for domestic pharmaceutical production, the segment is expected to continue on a path of growth at the country level.

STATE PROJECTS

Although government entities enlist the support and input of private sector providers while developing programs and projects, state-owned institutions and national leaders have played a significant role in shaping the future of the healthcare sector.

With an annual plan to add one new center per year to the existing network of 14 primary healthcare facilities, the DHA is spearheading a variety of projects for the benefit of both the local and expatriate community residing in the Emirate. One such project is the implementation of an electronic medical records (EMR) system, which is designed to streamline the process for patients visiting different service providers in Dubai. Through the system, “we will be able to control our medical stocks, facilitate a paperless environment, and provide patients and healthcare practitioners with complete online access to medical records," Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, Director General of the DHA, told TBY.

In addition, the DHA has continue developing the Al Jalila Children's Specialty Hospital, which is the first specialized pediatric hospital in the UAE. Treating patients under the age of 16, the facility offers a unique and successful approach to child medicine.

The number of private hospitals being regulated by the authorities has increased from seven in 2001 to 20 in 2012, demonstrating the government's commitment to unify and consolidate healthcare activity in the Emirate while expanding its services and garnering increased support for projects in the pipeline.

Under the arm of government leadership, the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is a free zone that is home to over 90 healthcare providers that offer more than 130 medical services to the population. Through collaboration with educational institutions, such as Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Boston University Institute of Dental Research and Education, and Nicolas and Asp University College, the zone aims to increase the level of quality of medical personnel and widen the breadth of healthcare services Dubai can offer. This has attracted the attention of companies from Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia, now seeking to establish operations in the free zone.

The Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park (DuBiotech) was established as a complement to the activities in the DHCC as the first zone in the Middle East dedicated to life sciences. Upon final completion, the area of the park will cover 2.8 million sqm and boast a variety of sustainable LEED-certified buildings. Companies setting up at DuBiotech are involved in diagnostics, R&D, manufacturing, storage, sales and marketing, distribution, consulting and service providers, industry-specific training, and clinical trials. “Many clinical providers and some pharmaceutical companies operate in the DHCC, while at DuBiotech there are a whole range of operations," Dr. Ayesha Abdullah, Managing Director of the DHCC and DuBiotech, told TBY. “We have specifically designed the DuBiotech headquarters as a laboratory," she added. In addition to tax-free incentives, the park offers entrepreneurs state-of-the-art infrastructure, logistics support, and centralized R&D facilities.

PRIVATE ACTORS

Private healthcare institutions have long benefitted from Dubai as a centrally located place to do business, and the presence of foreign and highly trained medical professionals is a key asset for their operations.

Prompted by local demand and the comfort of living in a city with advanced infrastructure, foreign employees have been easy to find for private hospitals seeking the most qualified staff. According to Thomas J. Murray, CEO of the American Hospital Dubai, there are “a significant number of physicians from Germany, the UK, and the US who want to work here. Many who come are returning to this region of the world." With 19 beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital and 159 in total, increased demand has propelled the American Hospital Dubai to expand its facilities to a newer building, boosting patient capacity by 25 beds. Meanwhile, technicians working for the hospital are working to computerize patient records and billing information, in line with the government's wider initiative to link all activity in the healthcare sector to an accessible database.

Saudi German Hospital (SGH) Dubai owns a 300-bed, multi-specialty hospital in the Emirate, with plans to expand its facilities to six centers of excellence for critical specialties, as well as a medical tower housing 200 clinics that will be used by community doctors. In addition, the new complex will include a state-of-the-art training center for healthcare professionals from around the globe. Like American Hospital Dubai, SGH encounters no shortage of talented medical personnel, which has encouraged the company to develop its services and establish a strong presence in the Emirate. According to Dr. Mohaymen M. Abdelghany, CEO of SGH Group in Dubai, “that is the beauty of Dubai. It is a cosmopolitan city that can attract talent from all over the world. It is an advantage that we do not have in other parts of the world." SGH Dubai also fosters collaboration, not competition, in the local market, adding that the company has “approached the Dubai Chamber of Commerce to establish a special group for private hospitals, so that we can discuss and solve our problems together, and generate a collective voice." This push for teamwork and cooperation has set a positive trend in Dubai, as private sector healthcare providers strive to improve the sector and seize new opportunities.

Striving to achieve success in a niche market, Mohammed Kazim, General Manager of Wooridul Spine Centre, has been working to reduce the need for Dubai citizens to travel abroad for healthcare. Having observed that an average of 500 patients from Abu Dhabi go aboard for spinal treatment annually, Kazim formed a joint healthcare establishment between Mubadala Healthcare and Wooridul Spine Hospital in February 2011. To attract over 1,300 registered patients from across the globe, “we work very closely with the healthcare authorities to identify gaps in the market," Kazim explained to TBY.

PHARMACEUTICALS

Government-initiated parks and free zones in health care are spearheading the UAE's struggle against prominent illnesses in the region, such as diabetes, which was affecting approximately 20% of the country's population in 2010. In Dubai, obesity and heart disease are also prevalent illnesses that have influenced the prices of pharmaceutical products in the UAE, with the cost of over 100 drugs decreasing after legislative reforms in 2011. In addition, new regulations that require employers to provide health insurance have contributed to the important growth of the pharmaceuticals market. Forecasts for the industry are in line with the estimated population growth, expected to be 8% in 2012.

Regionally based in Dubai, Abbot Laboratories specializes in the production of nutritional products, laboratory diagnostics, medical devices, and pharmaceutical therapies. Advancing in the region over the past decade, the multinational has taken advantage of more developed health care and education by integrating into DHCC. “We support disease awareness and educational activities to the public, through our partnerships with government, specifically the Ministry of Health and other major institutions," Abboud Bejjani, Regional Director, Middle East, Africa, & Pakistan for Abbott Laboratories S.A., told TBY. Focused on adding value with innovation, Abbot Laboratories recently introduced Humira, the world's first fully human monoclonal antibody product for the treatment of immune mediated inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn's disease.

In response to controlled prices, Rashad Hassan Al Moosa, Joint Managing Director and Partner of Gulf Drug, commented to TBY that “one aspect is for the expatriate community not to pay too much for their medication, but at the same time it is for those UAE citizens who choose not to go to the government hospitals, where UAE citizens get their medication and healthcare for free." In this way, new legislation has helped the consumer, broadened the market spectrum, and boosted activity in the private sector, especially in terms of pharmaceuticals production.