Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is under new management. DHCC parent Dubai Holding has had problems and has restructured. Tatweer, who used to manage DHCC, has been replaced by Tecom Investments.Tatweer failed to promote DHCC in the last 18 months, but Tecom seeks to be pro-active again. DHCC is a free zone in Dubai with a mandate to promote the emirate as a health care destination.
Dr Aisha Mohammad Abdullah of Tecom reports that although some clinics have closed, DHCC has seen 21 new clinics opened since 2009, taking the total number to 90. In all of the free zone, hospitals and clinics treated 220,000 patients in 2009, compared to 90,000 in 2008. Of these, 10% are not UAE nationals, but the company is not able to differentiate between the millions of expatriate workers, business and holiday travellers, diplomats and medical tourists within that 220,000 figure.
The challenge of reversing the trend from people travelling from the UAE for treatment, to the UAE in general and DHCC in particular, remains difficult. Dr Aisha comments, "The reason why people travel abroad is that they are looking for quality health care. DHCC is in a position to provide similar care. Perhaps what we have not done aggressively is to market what is available in DHCC. We have been in a developmental stage for some time, building infrastructure, both physical and soft. For us to compete in the international arena, we must have world-class facilities. We can build trust through emphasis on quality standards that meet and exceed international benchmarks. The focus on bricks and mortar in Dubai must shift to the content within.”
She said the public could take the quality of doctors at DHCC for granted as it ensures rigorous licensing with ongoing assessments to maintain best practices. DHCC also has 10 complementary and alternative medicine centres. Asked about the high costs of health care, Dr Aisha replied, "People have a misconception that quality care costs more. Our rates are comparable to any other private hospital or clinic in the UAE." This response fails to answer the criticism that the UAE is very expensive when compared to Asian countries, or even other Middle East ones. This makes it difficult to market on a cost-advantage, and the growth of hospital and clinic building, and international accreditation, in both those areas, makes it difficult for DHCC to argue it offers better quality or more modern facilities.
DHCC has 90% occupancy with two hospitals and 1,700 health care professionals. The Jumeirah Group-run hotel and hotel apartment towers will be open by late 2011.Work on the University Hospital has restarted and when completed, the teaching hospital will be the main tertiary care facility within DHCC, with 400 beds for acute and intensive care patients. The existing two hospitals are The City Hospital and American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital.
The problem that Dubai has is that other countries target residents of the UAE. South Korea, is the latest low-cost competitor to do so. In an effort to promote Korea as one of the world’s most competitive medical tourism destinations, the Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) organised a Korea medical tourism evening in Dubai in cooperation with ALTA Travel Agency. Charm Lee of the KTO says, “A top priority for medical providers around the world has been to attract medical tourists from the Middle East for many years, but currently the trend is gradually reversing as the Middle East is seeking to attract medical tourists.” So to make Korea friendlier to Arab patients, the country has successfully introduced personalised services for Muslim patients, implementing guidelines, which include various aspects of clinical care, food services, and religious observances, and visiting arrangements. ALTA Travel agency in Dubai has developed some attractive medical packages for Gulf tourists in association with hospitals in South Korea.