The fall in oil prices might be one factor behind the decrease in medical tourists travelling from the UAE to Thailand but the Emirate’s domestic healthcare infrastructure is also improving rapidly.
Among facilities driving this growth is Burjeel Hospital, which only started operations in 2012 but is already Abu Dhabi’s largest private tertiary hospital.
Clancey Po is the chief executive at Burjeel Hospital.
Here he tells The National why rising medical standards within the UAE means there is now less incentive for residents to seek treatment in foreign countries.
qRecent research suggests that less people are leaving the UAE for medical procedures overseas and more are using local hospitals. Why do you think this is?
aThe health sector has been growing tremendously in the UAE and has been a big focus in the country. Local hospitals have been recruiting international experts in addition to having the newest medical technological machines to ensure that the residents in the UAE are provided with the best treatment and services possible. This is a key reason why I believe more Emiratis and UAE residents are using local hospitals rather than seeking medical treatment overseas.
What are the advantages for a UAE resident in getting treatment in a local hospital as opposed to travelling overseas?
Travelling aboard for medical treatment can be a daunting experience. There are changes in culture, language, diet, cost and other factors which might cause issues. At Burjeel Hospital we place prime importance on local nuances, which is a prime reason that a majority of our guests are Emiratis.
Our tag line “The art of healing” signifies our approach to health care where we go beyond expectation to satisfy every need of our guests. We do this by looking after the small things such as the type of patient meals offered, the waiting time and the accommodation for family and providing calming Arabesque interiors, five-bedroom royal suites, live music, a playroom for children and free refreshments.
How does the standard of hospitals in the UAE compare with hospitals overseas, and in particular hospitals in Thailand?
Thanks to the rulers of this country, the UAE, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in particular, is establishing itself as a medical tourism destination in the Far East. The Government has set its sights firmly on making the UAE a medical hub with emphasis on stringent standards and world-class technology. Hospitals are also internationally accredited to ensure medical tourists receive medical treatment at par with or even exceeding international standards.
Health care in the UAE has improved by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Now the best hospitals in the UAE are certified by international associations such as the Joint International Commission and have state-of-the art medical technology at their disposal. Medical professionals certified from the US and UK practice in the UAE bringing in best practices and international levels of medical care and treatment with them to the region.
Are there any upcoming developments likely to affect the sector?
The UAE Government is very aggressive in promoting medical tourism in the region and has some massive plans that it will be putting into action. For example, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be designing customised packages for medical tourists that will include the visa and hotel stay as well as any sightseeing tour that the medical traveller might wish for. Hospitals which will participate in this programme will be evaluated and will be required to pass stringent quality measures.
Along with this, the Government is promoting the UAE as a medical destination in various international forums. Visa formalities will be easier so that medical tourists can easily travel to the emirates in a short span of time.
Burjeel Hospital realised the importance of medical tourism even before we opened. We did road shows in several countries in the GCC and Mena region to talk about our tertiary care and spread the word about our hospital.
To make it convenient for people to access information and details about the hospital we have opened representative office in countries like Oman, Yemen, Nigeria and Sudan. These representative offices help people looking for treatment in the UAE and plan everything for the patients from their home countries.
The services include finding the right doctor for treatment, remote consultation, scheduling appointments, cost estimates, end-to-end assistance during stay, visa and travel, special dietary and religious needs, airport transfer, interpreter service and updating relatives back home. By providing these services, we have made it convenient for international patients to choose Burjeel Hospital as the preferred destination for their medical needs.
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