Tuesday, March 9, 2010

High cost hits healthcare

The Gulf Today, 7 Feb 2010

The relatively higher cost to avail medical care and service in the UAE may affect adversely the country's rapidly boosting healthcare sector facing challenges to its long-term sustainability, according to a recent study.
Focused on opportunities and challenges of the UAE's healthcare scenario, the new research report reveals that the soaring cost of healthcare provision leads to competitive disadvantages in the UAE.
The recently published research report titled "Transforming the Middle East's Healthcare Model," has been carried out by Grant Thornton, a global independent accounting and consulting firm. The study highlighted the need for cost rationalisation in the UAE's healthcare sector.
Farouk Mohamed, Managing Partner of Grant Thornton UAE, said: "Compared to the UAE's healthcare advancements, a strong reputation for quality and low-cost healthcare has already been established by competitor countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, with significant first-mover advantages."
"The average cost of heart bypass surgery in the UAE stood at $44,000, compared with an average of $18,500 in Singapore, $11,000 in Thailand, $10,000 in India and $9,000 in Malaysia," he pointed out.
"While the cost of healthcare provision in the UAE compares very favourably with that of most Western countries. The long-term development of the country's medical tourism sector remains extremely price-dependent," added Mohamed.
He noted that the lower levels of people's confidence have impinged on to some extend the healthcare sector in the Middle East region, as the world is passing through tough financial turbulences.
Hisham Farouk, International Practice Partner of the Grant Thornton UAE, mentioned the example of Singapore as that country targeted to attract traffic of 1 million medical tourists annually by 2012.
"The UAE also has similar opportunities if it brainstorms strategies to emerge it self as a significant regional medical tourism destination, through rationalised and cost-effective healthcare accessibility," he added.
He said that UAE can be benefited with significant direct and indirect advantages through further development of the country's medical tourism sector that is dependent upon more competitive costs.
According to Farouk, there is no question about the existing infrastructure in the UAE, as we have already built up clusters such as Dubai Healthcare City and other pioneer projects.
He pointed out, "There is every reason to believe that the ongoing development of this potentially high-growth area will further enhance the reputation of the UAE as a centre of medical excellence and a leading destination for medical care."
The research report reviews the key issues and looks into future prospects for the healthcare sector in the region. Providing insight into each of the Gulf's major locations the report identifies potential opportunities for private healthcare participants.
Meanwhile, another survey has revealed recently that residents in the UAE are cutting down cost of visiting doctors and receiving proper medications due to the heavy financial burdens and pressure of global recession.
Instead of seeking the advice of a medical practitioner or a specialist, a risky tendency has emerged among the residents to depend on purchasing medicines over-the-counter and escape the heavy expense of consulting with a doctor and receive the medication.
The recession coupled with higher cost of healthcare also has forced many people to rely on Internet contents and receive online diagnosis and receive medical advices or remedies.
Many of the lower income groups in the UAE have been compelled to be in a position to cut back or stop even the expenditure over-the-counter medicines. The sales have come down drastically for cheaper solutions for health problems, revealed the survey.
However, speaking at the two-day GCC health ministers conference held at Abu Dhabi last week, the UAE Minister of Health Dr Hanif Hassan said the countries of the region aspire to pioneer in the world in terms of providing highest standard healthcare services.
The 68th GCC Health Ministers Session, themed "E-services for Health", focused on creating ways to keep the region's health systems in line with global developments in information technology.
"The region is on process of developing new health strategies and policies in order to raise the levels of community members and individuals," added minister.
"This will facilitate the Gulf to face all the healthcare challenges, and set a high pace with determination, as well as aspiring towards implementing world's most advanced technological achievements in the region's facilities," said Dr Hassan.
Experts, in the meantime, have observed that the affluence and economic boom in the region have caused a number of long-lasting public health risks in these countries.
Each Gulf country is struggling to build a public health apparatus to combat common epidemics, particularly those caused by a more sedentary lifestyle.

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