Although Dubai’s residents already have 30 hospitals to choose from – including four in the Dubai Healthcare City free zone – another 12 infirmaries are due to open in the emirate by 2020. Investment is pouring in to provide new specialisms and to serve developing communities in a growing city. The annual reports of major listed firms in the sector also cite the successful implementation of mandatory medical insurance in Dubai as both a driver of growth and a sign of stability in the health care market.
Despite the dampening effect of lower oil prices since mid-2014 on most GCC economies, construction work is continuing apace on health care construction projects across Dubai. According to research by the Anglo Arabian Healthcare initiative Zenith Health and Wellness, new facilities due to be completed by 2020 will add 1800 new private hospital beds to the market. In 2016 Dubai Health Authority reported a total of 4861 beds in the emirate, comprising 2434 private and 2427 public hospital beds.
By Dubai standards, these new hospitals are large-scale developments with the number of beds at each institution averaging 150. To compare, only six of the 26 existing private hospitals exceed that capacity. Investors behind the new projects include Mediclinic International and New Medical Center (NMC), as well as newer entrants from the UK and Saudi Arabia.
In some instances, the planned facilities are being built to serve new communities, while others are expanding to serve already established communities and market niches.
There are many factors encouraging investment in new developments, including Dubai’s growing population, and its rising urbanisation; its drive to become a global medical tourism destination; the proximity of wealthy Gulf neighbours – especially as oil prices begin to rise; high insurance penetration; and its stated determination to develop the range of treatments and medical services available to its residents.
In 2015 Mediclinic announced the planned construction of a new 200-bed, Dh700m ($190.5m) hospital to cater to Dubai South, the 145-sq-km urban development close to Al Maktoum International Airport and the site of Dubai Expo 2020. Mediclinic Parkview Hospital will occupy a 46,500-sq-metre site and upon opening in early 2019 is expected to employ over 800 staff members.
“Mediclinic Parkview is situated to serve Dubai South, which has developed as the population has expanded further inland,” Sara Alom Ruiz, director of business performance improvement at Mediclinic Middle East, told OBG. “It will be a general hospital with an emphasis on maternity to serve what is a significant residential area, but with a number of other specialities such as sports medicine.”
According to Zenith Health and Wellness, NMC is planning to more than double its capacity by adding 150 beds with the construction of two new hospitals, and in January 2018 continued its expansion by acquiring remaining stakes in two hospitals in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for $218m.
Both Mediclinic International and NMC are listed on the London Stock Exchange, and each company has expressed an interest in the use of public-private partnerships as a vehicle for funding the upgrade to their medical facilities. Suggested investments would go towards improvements to ambulatory care, long-term stay and outpatient surgery centres.
A hospital and medical university project is being developed at Dubai Silicon Oasis free trade zone by Saudi health care provider Fakeeh Care Group. International contractors Habtoor Leighton won the Dh468m ($127.4m) contract to build the Fakeeh Academic Medical Center, which will encourage academic advancement, and emphasise technology and learning. In keeping with the spirit of its location, the centre will utilise the most up-to-date technology in robotics to dispense medicine and perform surgery. The hospital will have specialist centres for the treatment of diabetes, muscles and joints, pulmonary medicine, cardiology and emergency medicine. In its second phase, due for completion in 2019, a medical university will be constructed at the site. By embracing innovation, specialist care and medical education the new hospital will be addressing three of the key programmes of the Dubai Health Strategy (2016-21). Upon completion the new hospital will have 300 beds, making it larger than any existing private hospital in the emirate with the exception of the 315-bed Saudi German Hospital Dubai.
A three-way partnership between Dubai’s Al Tayer Group, UK-based investment manager Ashmore Group and King’s College Hospital (KCH) London, is behind the construction of a hospital in the new Dubai Hills community. Construction on the Dh734m ($199.8m) project began in November 2016 and is expected to be completed by the last quarter of 2018. KCH Dubai will be among the first hospitals in the region to offer liver transplants. It will also focus on four main specialist areas of treatment: paediatrics, endocrinology, orthopaedics, and obstetrics and gynaecology. KCH London also opened two clinics in Dubai at Jumeirah and Dubai Marina.
Collectively, the clinics and the hospital will employ 700 people, with 30% of the workforce coming from the UK, including all department heads, while the rest will be recruited and trained locally.
Advet Bhambhani Ventures (ABV) – which founded the Lifeline Healthcare Group – has begun building a 150-bed boutique hospital on a site near Dubai International Airport in the residential district of Mirdif, and has also acquired two additional sites for a critical care facility and a purpose-built paediatric hospital. In an interview with local media, founder and chairman Advet Bhambhani told local media that the combined investment for the three facilities will be around Dh2.2bn ($599m), and that he expects all three to be operational by 2020. The project will see Dubai’s first luxury hospital built under new brand Nucleus Hospitals, while Criticare Technologies will handle the critical care centre.
The Lifeline Healthcare Group already operates three hospitals and nine medical centres in the UAE and also owns Dubai’s largest private ambulance fleet. The 150-bed Nucleus Hospital in Mirdif will offer fine dining, a concierge service, limousines and tailor-made spa treatments to aid recovery. ABV plans to grow the Nucleus brand in both the GCC and India.
Two of the new hospitals being built in Dubai will see existing facilities offer more space to meet patient demand. In May 2017 a $49m investment was announced that will enable the 120-bed Neuro Spinal Hospital and Radiosurgery Centre of Excellence to be constructed in Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park. Audacia Capital, with backing from investors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will build the centre to provide neuroscience, spine, orthopaedic and oncology treatments using radiosurgery. The completion of both facilities means patients will be able to receive treatment locally, reducing the number of residents that have to travel abroad for care.
Another provider targeting orthopaedic and spinal cases in a major expansion is Thumbay Group, a network of academic hospitals across the UAE and India. Thumbay Hospital Dubai (THD) is an academic hospital affiliated with Gulf Medical University in Ajman, which Thumbay Group also owns. The provision of 100 new beds in Dubai was announced in March 2017 at the inauguration of an Ortho Spine Centre at the hospital. The centre at THD offers joint replacement and orthopaedic surgery for children and adults, including trauma patients and arthroscopic surgery. Physicians who specialise in spinal disorders will treat everything from back pain to complicated deformities and spine tumours.
Elaborating on its future plans, THD chairman, Thumbay Moideen, told local media, “We are pursuing an ambitious global expansion plan, according to which the Thumbay academic hospital network will have 1000 beds in the UAE, 1500 beds in India and 750 beds elsewhere in the Gulf and Africa by 2022, taking the total number of hospitals to 15 worldwide.”
In addition to the Ortho Spine facility, the new expanded hospital will have 45 specialist clinics and centres of excellence in diabetes, mother and child care, cardiology and cosmetic surgery. The Cosmo Curve Centre will offer treatments ranging from laser hair removal to anti-ageing treatment, as well as a range of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.
A hallmark of all the expansion plans taking place is that the emirate is playing a key factor in the plans of international companies. These firms see potential in Dubai as a centre for medical tourism. By improving the range and standard of medical treatments available to patients – either those living in the emirate or coming from abroad – private providers are increasing Dubai’s ability to project and maintain its appeal as a cluster of clinical excellence.
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