Is Medical Tourism part of Dubai's Future?
An acquaintance became a proud father when his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy at Al Wasl Hospital, Dubai. Preoccupied by the well wishes, the celebrations and the additional domestic chores, our friend procrastinated acquiring a visa and passport for his newborn. During this time, Sheikh Mohammed, in a grand gesture to his mother and mothers everywhere, renamed Al Wasl Hospital to Latifa Hospital. So when the aforementioned father finally decided to get the documents processed, he was rejected by the ministry on the grounds 'Al Wasl Hospital' didn't exist anymore.
Determined to clear up the issue, when he got to the newly renamed Latifa Hospital, he found, much to his dismay, that he'd have to pay an extra fee and submit a truckload of documents to begin the process of reissuing the birth certificate. We'd like to tell you how the story ends, but we don't know. The father has since been engaged in an unending game of bureaucratic tag with the authorities, and getting in touch seems to be a bit of a task.
As incredulous as it may sound, readers, this is a true story.
Perhaps such a story doesn't surprise you if you've been living in Dubai for a few years--after all this is a city where a local telco will promise to give you a call on your telephone to address the complaint you logged about your telephone not working.
But, here at the Kipp headquarters, our friend's anecdote alerts us in light of Dubai's ambitious aspirations to become a medical tourism attraction. Sure, Dubai has the tourism aspect down to an art, (check out this video by rapper Flo Rida ) but what about the medical?
"In the long term, what we really want to do is provide high-end tertiary care so that we can compete with the regional players," Dr Ayesha Abdullah, the managing director of Dubai Health Care City told The National .
Now before we completely disregard Dubai's potential as a medical tourism attraction, we will admit that the sector has been doing considerably well over the past years. In fact, Dubai Healthcare City has reported a significant boost in the number of international patients. Last year 15 percent of all patients in Dubai Healthcare City were medical tourists--a five percent increase from the 10 percent of medical tourists in 2010. And although 15 percent may look pale against the numbers of popular medical tourism alternatives like India, Thailand and South Africa, consider in 2009 only 5 percent of Dubai HealthCare City patients were medical tourists.
Yet, as our anecdote revealed at the start of this article, the question remains: Does Dubai have a steady enough health and medical infrastructure in place to support plans for medical tourism?
Dr Taha Ibrahim, the director of Al Noor Hospital has said that he considers the medical legislation to be in need of further consideration: "Medicine can have a lot of outcomes, including complications and side effects. Are we ready from a legislation point of view to cover these kinds of shortcomings? I don't think so."
Let's hope Dr. Ibrahim's words are seriously considered by the authorities. Medical tourism in Dubai seems to have the same blessing/curse of most sectors in the Emirate: it is young.
Because growth is on the rise, the business opportunities are spectacular. From the offset the offers too may look just as spectacular, yet what is taken for granted is the groundwork that needs to be in place-both from a legal and logistical perspective.
Enjoying a five percent growth rate is all very well, but is the growth being substantiated with similar development in terms of infrastructure? What will the legal recourse be for an unhappy patient? How differently will the application process be for applying for a medical tourist visa? And what of credibility--how does Dubai stand with government sanctioned hospital accreditation?
Given that tourism accounts for a significant chunk of Dubai's GDP--the mere promise of increasing tourism numbers may be enough to those higher up to push medical tourism to reach highly profitable but maybe not so safe numbers. Considering that this is really a matter of life and death, Kipp would like to see some proper and real regulation and standardisation in the field of medical tourism.
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