United Eastern Medical Services (UEMS), one of the biggest healthcare developers in the country, is doubling the sum it is planning to invest in the capital to US$1.2 billion (Dh4.40bn) in the next three years, the company's chief executive says. Mohammed Ali al Shorafa, chief executive of the privately owned healthcare development and investment company, said the planned network of hospitals and outpatient clinics, expected to be fully operational by 2013, would cost twice the sum originally budgeted.
"We have had to double our capital investment recently in order to make sure that we achieve our goal of creating an efficient, integrated healthcare delivery system network of 20 premium outpatient centres and two world-class hospitals," Mr al Shorafa said. "So the entire network may cost us up to $1.2bn." UEMS is to spend more than $250 million on its flagship, 200-bed hospital Danat Al Emarat.
It will be one of the region's largest and most modern hospitals for women and children when it opens in November next year. According to Mr al Shorafa, the capital's healthcare market, which is valued at more than $30bn, needs a lot of private investment to complement public facilities. "You will be surprised that private investments are only about $5bn of the total $30bn healthcare market in Abu Dhabi.
"That is a very small share, which means the sector still needs more private investments like ours." The growing healthcare investment opportunities offered by the increasing population has attracted big names such as Cleveland Clinic, which will open a 360-bed hospital in Abu Dhabi in 2012 in partnership with Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government. Mubadala has also brought in Johns Hopkins Medicine International to run its Tawam Molecular Imaging Centre, a specialist facility in Al Ain, which opened in April.
The healthcare sector was fraught with challenges, Mr al Shorafa said. "We have two main challenges," he said. "The first one is insurance companies. They are always resistant to paying the fair value for the services we provide our patients. So we have to fight with them all the time. "The second problem, which is the biggest one, is finding the right locations for our facilities." Abu Dhabi municipality regulations stipulate that businesses be situated in the commercial areas of the city, barring them from areas designated as residential.
But most health emergencies occur in residential areas rather than in office districts, Mr al Shorafa said. "As healthcare providers we target families where they are, in the residential areas," Mr al Shorafa said."So it is a challenge to find a good place where people can easily access us. "I hope the municipality will look into this and consider giving an exemption, at least for healthcare services to be allowed to operate in residential areas.
"This will be beneficial for both patients and healthcare providers." email@example.com