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Main » 2009 » November » 30 » Dubai has Eye on Medical Tourism
Dubai has Eye on Medical Tourism

DUBAI // Dubai hopes to attract some of the US$2 billion (Dh7.35bn) that patients from the Gulf spend each year on medical treatment overseas, but it will first have to develop its healthcare system.

"Medical tourism is a very competitive industry, especially in this part of the region,” said Laila al Jassmi, the chief of the Clinical Support Services Sector of the Dubai Health Authority.

Patients in the GCC surveyed by the McKinsey group in 2007 complained of inadequate specialist treatments, limited consultation hours and long waiting periods for health services in their countries.

To attract some of the money that such patients spend elsewhere, Dubai must first bring its hospitals up to international standards through training its professionals, developing an accreditation system and increasing patient trust and transparency, Ms al Jassmi said.

Dr Mounes Kawaali, the chairman of Clemenceau Medical International in Lebanon, said that because of proximity, "regional healthcare institutions are a major supplier to healthcare in the Middle East”.

"It is more and more a regional market and a regional centre of excellence, especially through partnering with major [western] institutes,” Dr Kawaali said.

Dr Prem Jagyasi, chief executive of the healthcare services firm ExHealth in Dubai, said efforts such as knowledge and human resources exchanges, as well as sending patients to other regional hospitals, would lead to greater ties between healthcare suppliers in the Middle East.

According to Dr Jagyasi, the UAE currently attracts medical tourists seeking plastic surgery and advanced procedures, cardiac and spinal surgery, and dental treatment.

He warned that in order to build a reputation in the region, Dubai must be careful not to promise prospective patients too much.

"We need to be very realistic in what we can do and what we cannot do. In terms of tourism you can say anything, but when it becomes medical you have to be very realistic in what you can provide.”

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