Interview: Abdulla Ali Al Mahyan
Which factors are shaping the development of the health sector in Sharjah?
ABDULLA ALI AL MAHYAN: The UAE’s health care market is projected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 10% between 2019 and 2023. Moreover, by 2025 the population of Sharjah alone is expected to reach nearly 2m, which will require an increase in the number of dedicated health care facilities. The SHA and Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) are working to meet this heightened demand by focusing on attracting hospitals and clinics that specialise in a variety of disciplines. These can range from advanced diagnostics, surgery and rehabilitation to disease-specific treatment – most notably for cancer, cardiovascular disease, nephritic ailments and diabetes. This will also include complementary and alternative medicines.
The expansion of service has been made possible by Sharjah’s attractiveness as an investment destination. In addition to providing a safe and business-friendly environment for foreign and local investment, Sharjah hosts a well-diversified economy. This has enabled it to weather a challenging global economic climate, while outpacing other emirates in terms of GDP expansion.
To what extent has the pandemic impacted longterm strategy and planning?
AL MAHYAN: While the pandemic has had negative effects on the health care sector, it has brought the industry to the forefront globally, and shined a spotlight on the importance of prevention and research. Both components will become increasingly prominent in ongoing efforts to improve health provision, as well as long-term development strategies.
Beyond this, the pandemic accelerated existing trends in digitalisation, particularly in the effectiveness and efficiency of remote consultation and treatment. This will have a beneficial impact on the entire system, and technology will be a major driver of transformation and investment. In line with this, the SHCC is implementing initiatives aimed at fully digitalising several processes, including licensing.
In what ways can Sharjah positively differentiate itself in terms of medical tourism?
AL MAHYAN: Sharjah’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia – as well as between the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman – makes it an ideal centre for trade and commerce. Sharjah functions as the gateway to the northern emirates, and the SHCC is located in close proximity to Sharjah International Airport. From there, Sharjah’s own airline, Air Arabia, connects businesses to the MENA region and the Indian sub-continent. Sharjah has already raised its profile on the global tourism map with its cultural attractions in recent years, and these factors taken together will facilitate the expansion of medical tourism.
How can the SHCC attract investment in the health care sector moving forwards?
AL MAHYAN: Since its inception, the SHCC has sought to attract investment and build a sustainable health care ecosystem – comprising services from prevention to treatment to cures – with research supporting all segments. Although the adverse global economic situation has resulted in a drop in investment, this slowdown is likely to be temporary. Indeed, the UAE expects an overall surge in health care investment in the coming years.
Sharjah’s public-private partnership framework will channel this investment in a way that will allow investors and citizens to see tangible results. Through the SHCC, the government is improving the ease of access to the entire range of health services, as well as establishing a transparent regulatory framework and providing economic incentives.
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