Dubai is poised to become the new healthcare capital of the region with a comprehensive 5-year strategy
The healthcare sector of the Gulf region is a study in contrasts: Unlike other emerging markets and other developing nations, the region seldom faces the challenge of communicable diseases. Other than the scare unleashed by the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Corona Virus, the region has largely been insulated from several diseases the cause grave concern in other countries.
On the contrary, the GCC countries have the unenviable task of addressing what is described as ‘lifestyle diseases.’ The incidence of disease conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity-induced disorders and cancers (especially breast cancer, the largest killer among females), has catapulted healthcare delivery costs to whopping highs.
According to a report issued by McKinsey, healthcare bills in the region were set to reach a high of US $60 billion by 2025. The report was issued 8 years ago though it continues to be oft-repeated, given the poor source of information when it comes to healthcare across the wider region.
A new report by Informa points out that the healthcare sector in the region will grow by about 11% annually, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE representing the largest markets. Compared to 2010, the demand for the number of beds has reached about 94,000 – a 10% increase. The lack of inpatient facilities reportedly leads to some GCC countries assigning nearly 10% of their patients to other countries.
The key healthcare concerns faced by the region include Type 2 diabetes, with Saudi Arabia reporting the fourth highest rate of its incidence globally at 22%. In the UAE, authorities estimate that nearly 90% of all deaths are due to non-communicable lifestyle diseases.
The region continues to face a shortage of qualified professionals, with 20 qualified physicians serving 10,000 people. In the US and the UK, it is 27 doctors to the same population. The number of dentistry staff and qualified nurses continue to be low across the wider region, with World Health Organisation citing a deficit of 79% and 71%, respectively, than in the US.
(Read full article in the March issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)