Dubai hospitals to get star ratings before 2016

The ratings will be aimed at encouraging hospitals to comply with regulations and boost Dubai’s Medical Tourism Strategy.


Asma Ali Zain

Published: Wed 26 Mar 2014, 1:31 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

Five and four star ratings for hospitals, similar to those of hotels, will be introduced in Dubai before 2016, a senior health official said on Monday.

The ratings will be aimed at encouraging hospitals to comply with regulations and boost Dubai’s Medical Tourism Strategy that hopes to attract 500,000 medical tourists to the emirate over the next six years until 2020.

“This is a new incentive for hospitals ... same like that for hotels,” said Essa Al Maidoor, Director-General of Dubai Health Authority (DHA) on Monday while outlining details of its medical tourism strategy that was approved last week by the Dubai Executive Council.

“The star ratings will be awarded according to the services hospitals provide,” he said.

To promote the strategy, flexible medical tourism packages that will include treatment, hotel stays and leisure activities will be rolled out by the end of this year. The packages, costs of which are yet to be decided, will also provide visas, transport, hotel stays, treatment as well different leisure activities to the patient and accompanying family members.

The strategy has two phases of implementation; the short term that will be implemented by 2016 and the second one by 2020.

“The target is to attract 500,000 medical tourists until 2020 but by 2016, we hope to have the capability to host such tourists,” he added.

At least seven specialities will be offered initially after a year-long study showed that Dubai already had the facilities to attract medical tourists for these services and these include orthopaedic and sports medicine, plastic surgery, opthalmology, dental procedures, dermatology, preventive health check-ups and wellness and skincare.

However, more than half of the hospitals that will be offering the services are private while government hospitals will mostly serve the local community. While there remains a shortage of qualified medical staff, the head of DHA hoped that staff would increase according to demand. “Currently there are 25,846 professionals in the private sector and this should increase between 10 and 15 per cent as per demand,” he added.

“We cannot stop people from travelling for treatment but we are trying to create a model that will work and see expats coming to Dubai for treatment,” he said. “Dubai will create the environment,” he added.

Stiff competition

With stiff competition from countries such as Thailand and China, health officials hope Dubai will have its own standing. Russia, CIS countries, South Asia and neighbouring GCC countries have been identified as target markets for the initiative. “We studied the international market and found that despite the high costs, people are still travelling to Singapore and the US. India and Thailand offer cheap medical treatment but despite this we want Dubai to become a travel hub for medical tourism,” said Dr Ramadan Ibrahim, Director of Health Regulation Department.

“Dubai has visitors from across the globe coming here for business, exhibitions and conferences, shopping and entertainment or on their annual family holiday and has amongst the best tourism infrastructure in the world. More importantly, we already have a medical sector that is well regulated,” said Dr Ramadan who is also director of the medical tourism project.

“The number of health facilities in Dubai is around 2,518 and more than 70 per cent of our hospitals are internationally accredited ... health professionals here speak more than 40 languages. All these factors will help drive the medical tourism initiative.”

“We began the ground work for the medical tourism initiative around the last quarter of 2012. In 2013, we completed a thorough analysis of the competitiveness and prioritisation of services, this included analysis of the current situation and existing gaps, medical specialties which can be highlighted, target market identification and prices benchmarking,” he added.

In 2012, the number of medical tourists that visited Dubai were 107,000 and the revenues generated amounted to Dh652,700,000. “By 2016 we expect a 15 per cent jump bringing the total number of tourists to 170,000 and the revenues to go up to Dh1,184,882,113. By 2020 if we consider a 20 per cent jump, it brings the number to 500,000 tourists and revenues to go up to Dh2,619,673,731,” said Dr Ramadan.

An online portal that will promote and brand the initiative will be launched soon. It will also announce the packages.

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