Major new health care development projects should significantly: expand capacity Welcome developments

 

Efforts are under way in Oman to construct a number of new hospitals and health centres to help meet the growing demands being placed on the national health care system. In 2015 nearly 326,000 patients received treatment and around 102,000 surgical operations were performed in Oman, which has a population of roughly 4.5m, according to government data.

GROWING THE SYSTEM: In a statement issued in April 2016, Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid Al Saidi, minister of health, said the ministry has ambitious plans for the sector, including eight hospitals currently in the tendering process, with the tenders for four others being finalised. This is a good sign for the sultanate, as is the number of foreign health care providers becoming active in the market. In March 2016 Shifa Al Jazeera Medical Group, from India, announced the opening of their first hospital in Oman, with the group already present in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

There is a strong need for hospitals and health centres. Over the next five years the demand for hospital beds in Oman is expected to increase at an annual rate of 3.1%, to reach over 7600 beds by 2020, up from 6400 beds in 2016. This will necessitate the establishment of a significant number of new facilities, each fully staffed and equipped with cutting-edge technology to cater to the local and expat populations.

MAJOR PROJECTS: The biggest project currently under development is the Sultan Qaboos Medical City near Barka on the outskirts of Muscat, which is expected to open in 2018. The $1.5bn complex is reported to consist of a cluster of five hospitals, with dedicated facilities for trauma care, neck injuries, paediatric treatment and organ transplants, as well as a medical college, and research and development (R&D) facilities.

In June 2016 it was announced that the authorities were considering a public-private partnership (PPP) option for this flagship development, having signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Supreme Council for Planning and the Oman Investment Fund (OIF), the government-owned sovereign wealth fund. Shortly before, Carillion, a UK-based multinational facilities management and construction services company, signed an agreement with OIF to look into developing hospital projects jointly in Oman. “We have signed a MoU with the OIF, a sovereign wealth fund of the sultanate of Oman, to develop opportunities for PPPs in the health care sector,” the company said.

Also under development is a OR72m ($187m) integrated health care complex in Al Hail, which will house a 225-bed tertiary-care hospital, 300 residential apartments, and a fitness centre and retail space. Construction is expected to be completed by 2018 or 2019. There is also a OR21m ($54.5m) hospital in Muscat being developed by Oman and Emirates Investment Holding and Asistencia Sanitraria Interprovincial De Seguros (ASISA), a private health care provider from Spain, which is expected to be completed by 2019.

The 70-bed multi-speciality hospital is being billed as a premier health care facility offering cardiology, genetics, urology, neurology, dermatology, oncology, rehabilitation, ophthalmology and IVF, completed according to European standards. ASISA has an established footprint in the industry, with 15 hospitals and over 64 medical centres around the world.

Lastly, the International Medical City in Salalah is hoping to tap into the nascent medical tourism sector, offering a specialty care hospital, organ transplant centres, and R&D complex as well as a health care resort, at an estimated cost of around $1bn.

The fact that the government is investing heavily in the sector, and that foreign, private sector players are showing a keen desire to get involved in health care in Oman, points to the strength of the sector and the opportunities on offer for those who make the leap. Each major new hospital or health care facility on its own should significantly add to the sultanate’s current capacity, and together they will go a long way to meeting the needs of the sultanate’s expanding population.

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