Since Dubai offers excellent health-care facilities, medical tourism is an extension of the hospitality that Dubai is synonymous with. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The UAE is the world’s fastest growing medical tourism hub poised to become the world’s top destination with the total health expenditure allocation here jumping from Dh84 billion to Dh101 billion by 2021, said a top official from the Ministry of Health and Prevention at a medical tourism conference on Thursday.

Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for Medical Practice and Licensing Sector at the ministry, was speaking at the third annual health and medical tourism conference entitled ‘Brand UAE’s Medical Tourism Vision 2021’ organised by the Gulf Medical University and Thumbay medical tourism arm.

“In 2000 we had only three hospitals with international JCI accreditation, by 2016 we have 55 hospitals throughout the country with this internationally recognised accreditation. We are manufacturing pharmaceuticals in 14 indigenous factories and this number is set to go up to 18 by the end of the year. By 2020, we will have 34 indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing factories. The market value of our pharmaceutical industry is set to go up to Dh25 billion by 2025 whereas it stands at Dh9.5 billion currently.”

He added that the UAE was looking double or triple the number of medical tourists in the next five years. “To ensure best practices, we are cautiously introducing patented medicines approved by USFDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) to ensure highest quality care and medicines are provided, and draw patients from across the globe to the UAE as medical tourists and get their treatment in the emirates,” he said.

The conference that was presided by Thumbay Moideen, founder president of the Thumbay Group, was attended by top industry experts from health care, travel and medical and education sectors, to discuss the latest trends and developments in medical tourism and to explore ways to capitalise on UAE’s growing stature. The conference was also attended by government officials, medical tourism experts and representatives from the embassies of Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad, Djibouti, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Moideen pointed out that the facilities extended to the tourists make the UAE a conducive family destination. “Domestic medical tourism has been growing significantly, and with the ease of information accessible on the internet, we’ve seen an increased element of choice. Moreover, the city’s growing popularity of being conducive to a family experience for those coming in for health care has been a big contributing factor. We understand that people have strong images of UAE as a tourism hub, but we are here to say that we now have world-class medical facilities too.”

Delivering the keynote address at the conference, Linda Abdullah Al Ali, head of Medical Tourism Office, Health Regulation Department, Dubai Health Authority, said that the country was well-equipped to serve its increasing numbers of medical tourists, with Dubai alone expected to see more than 500,000 medical tourists by 2020. “The UAE has turned into a hub for medical tourism and it has worked very hard to achieve this status. Both the public and private sectors have been rolling out plans to build more hospitals, train medical staff and recruit highly qualified expatriate doctors and medical staff to deliver the quality services. The health care infrastructure in the UAE has grown and stretched in a manner that could be compared with those of advanced countries,” she added.