Dubai: The medical tourism policy of the Dubai Government will have a positive spillover effect on the private medical sector right across the seven emirates and the health-care industry is welcoming it with open arms, according to health-care industry experts.

Raza Seddiqi, CEO of the Arabian Health Care Group, feels that the new policy will give a great boost to the already burgeoning medical tourism industry in Dubai.

“The medical tourism industry is worth $100 billion (Dh367 billion) annually worldwide. In this region, it is worth $20 billion. The health-care sector in the UAE always had a steady traffic from patients in the Mena region and also from East European countries. However, since 9/11 when travel to the US and other countries of the West became challenging, the traffic naturally diverted to Asia and Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia became attractive medical tourism destinations,” he said.

In this context, the strategic location of Dubai is a huge advantage for the emirate, he believes.

“In the Middle East, Dubai enjoys a strategic location and is a gateway to this region and Asia. At least 5,000 to 6,000 patients are in transit through this region en route to their destinations. If Dubai can provide excellence in the medical and health-care sector with good quality hospitals, then these patients would much rather elect to undergo their medical procedures here.”

Seddiqi also added that promoting medical tourism in Dubai would help other emirates as well, especially since institutions like his — the RAK Medical College and Hospital — is already hosting many patients from Africa and the Middle East and conducting complex and rare surgeries with a good degree of success, especially in cancer treatment and palliative care. “We have patients from 15 countries already coming to us for treatment. A move like this will only be a positive development for all,” he said.

Seddiqi is highly optimistic about the future of this sector given the approach of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). “We are quite sure that with the implementation of the strategic plan announced by the DHA, the figures will show a significant increase.”

A similar sense of optimism is expresed by Dr Haider Al Zubaidy, CEO, Canadian Specialist Hospital, Dubai. According to him, many patients come to Dubai on a regular visa to seek medical treatment and are not registered as medical tourists. “As things stand, we already see hundreds of patients on a monthly basis who come from Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East countries. Now, with the formalised medical tourism strategy in place, it will help streamline the system,” he says.

His hospital, according to Al Zubaidy, forayed into medical tourism as early as 2006 when it began offering well-designed medical packages for tourists. “Our hospital has conducted several campaigns to attract patients and designed sound packages for patients coming from abroad.” The range these packages cover, according to Dr Al Zubaidy, is extensive and includes almost all specialities, starting from comprehensive health check-ups to laparoscopic neurosurgery.

The pricing of the packages is pegged keeping in mind its appeal for patients. “If we consider general health check-ups, we have a range of eight different packages and their prices depend on the age and the gender of the patient and the tests required.”

The price for such packages ranges between Dh2,200 and Dh4,500,” he said.