A number of new health care facilities in Abu Dhabi are under development, financed by both the public and private sectors, with the latter focused on the provision of specialised health care services.
New facilities under way
In September, the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi announced the allocation of Dh15.8bn ($4.3bn) for multiple infrastructure and social development projects, including a new hospital in Al Ain. Some Dh4.3bn ($1.17bn) has been set aside for the facility, which will provide 719 beds; 104 advanced specialised clinics; 17 units for conducting X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs; and 22 specialised endoscopy units. The first phase of the project, which is being developed by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), the government entity responsible for all public health care assets, is set to be finished by 2018, with full completion by 2020.
Complementing the efforts of SEHA is Mubadala Healthcare, a division of Mubadala Development Company, an investment vehicle mandated to develop the emirate’s economy alongside its primary commercial remit to generate financial returns via its domestic and international portfolio. Mubadala Healthcare aims to fill important gaps in the local health care sector, in part to reduce the need for patients to seek treatment outside the emirate.
In early September Mubadala announced the opening of Healthpoint, a 74-bed multi-speciality hospital located in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi City, which is being managed by German private hospital management firm Asklepios. According to Ihsan Al Marzouqi, the CEO of Healthpoint, the construction of the facility has been largely motivated by both the high rate of Emiratis seeking treatment abroad and the influx of foreign workers into the emirate in recent years.
“Abu Dhabi is attracting a lot of white-collar expats from all over the world,” Al Marzouqi told local media. “They have an expectation, coming from their home countries, of how health care should be. I believe we will capture a lot of this new market that’s coming here as well as the existing market.”
Orthopaedics, spinal surgery and paediatric surgery are among the top five areas for which Emiratis go abroad for treatment, Al Marzouqi said. Healthpoint will place a major focus on these practices to ensure that high-quality, services are available locally.
Healthpoint will bring a number of Mubadala’s specialised projects under one roof. For example, it will be home to the Abu Dhabi Knee & Sports Medicine Centre, which has been in operation since 2006 and is the emirate’s first facility dedicated specifically to the treatment these types of injuries. Healthpoint will also house the first Abu Dhabi branch of Wooridul Spine Centre (WSC), a Mubadala-owned facility formed as part of a partnership with Wooridul Spine Hospital in South Korea. WSC focuses on minimally invasive spinal surgery and has been operating in Dubai since 2009.
Improving the investment environment
According to Mohammed Sultan Al Hameli, the chairman of Health Authority – Abu Dhabi, the sector’s regulator, the provision of specialised health care services presents a good opportunity for private sector players. He noted the emirate has made it easier for foreign investors by reducing regulatory obstacles, including the streamlining of the licensing and permit process.
“This is extremely important as we want private enterprises to play an increasingly larger role in the sector. More specifically, we feel there is an opportunity for them to provide specialised services, as well as to consolidate what is a somewhat fragmented industry. To date, private investment in the medical segment has been steady, but we anticipate that to increase greatly,” he told OBG.
Moreover, the emirate has improved access to bank financing for the development of health care facilities by ensuring that the land acquisition process includes the transfer of title deed. In the past, banks were reluctant to lend without this document, according to Al Hameli.
Improving the investment environment for the health care sector is set to attract more private sector players, boosting the availability of medical services generally, but in particular the presence of speciality treatment centres. In turn, this will likely mean that fewer citizens travel abroad for medical care, reducing costs for the emirate.