There’s been an increase in the amount of investment coming into Dubai ... This will increase the number of [hospital] beds [in the emirate], says Dr Ayesha Abdullah, Managing director, Health Care City. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Dubai Health Care City is attempting to stem the flow of people going abroad for treatment and position itself as the medical hub for international and regional patients.

"Last year the DHCC treated half a million patients, and some of them had come from abroad," Dr Ayesha Abdullah, managing director of Health Care City, said.

She said there has also been an increase in the number of patients visiting Dubai for treatment and more investment coming into the city.

"This will increase the number of beds [in the emirate]," she said.

Asked how DHCC will tackle competition from nearby countries such as India or Thailand where medical treatment is cheaper, the director general said: "For some patients, cost is a factor, but for a majority it is quality service, value for money."

Dr Ayesha said DHCC offered nine centres of excellence in various specialities and sub-specialities, from plastic surgery to heart surgeries.

‘Good and bad news'

The director-general was speaking to Gulf News at the launch of a publication called Patients Without Borders which gives options to global patients to seek treatment in Dubai.

Josef Woodman, author of the DHCC edition of Patients, said Dubai's position, which is near other cheaper medical destinations was "both good news and bad news".

The good news is that many affluent Indians and Europeans come to Dubai to seek some elective procedures which are unavailable in their own countries, he said.

Woodman said it was a game-changer when Asia came to the forefront in health care and it was not the US and Europe any more that people went to for treatment, he said. "The Middle East has now joined the [Asian] group," he said. Woodman said there has been a rise in medical clusters around the world where doctors, academics, researchers and practitioners work together in one cluster.

"London has its Harley Street and Dubai the DHCC, where 500,000 patients sought treatment in its 100 clinics and hospitals," he said.

Growing business

He pointed out that medical travel has increased 30 per cent around the globe, mainly because of rising costs in developed countries such as Canada, the UK and Germany. "Many patients from these countries are seeking treatment abroad," he said.

According to the research firm Business Monitor International, health tourism in the UAE is growing at 15 per cent annually. "The UAE is attaining premium rankings, leading the GCC in superior health care expertise, affordability, availability and brief waiting periods," it noted.