Arab Health Congress grows to keep pace with GCC's health needs

This year, close to 2,700 exhibitors are expected to attend, and more than 500 speakers will address attendees.

DUBAI // The four-day Arab Health Congress 2010 opens today with an additional 20,000 square metres of space, making it the largest conference in the event's three decades of operation, organisers said. "Arab Health is the destination of choice for the Middle East health industry," said Simon Page, the director of the life science division of IIR Middle East which organised the event.

At the 2009 conference, Arab Health boasted 2,205 exhibitors from 59 countries, with more than 56,000 professionals from 145 countries attending. This year, close to 2,700 exhibitors are expected to attend, and more than 500 speakers will address attendees. Dave Panther, the sponsorship director of Arab Health, says the 20 per cent increase in the size of the event reflects the continued growth of the healthcare industry in the region.

"The healthcare market in the GCC countries is expected to grow at about nine per cent annually to reach $47 billion (Dh173bn) to $55bn by 2020, according to a recent report by Alpen Capital," Mr Panther said. The report also forecasts that the GCC may need more than 25,000 extra hospital beds by 2020 to address the growing demand for inpatient treatment. Saudi Arabia has the largest demand, followed by the UAE.

Last year, 46 million medical treatments were conducted across the region, and 91 per cent were outpatient-based, generating $18bn in revenue, according to the report. This year, samples of medical supplies and equipment will be sent to Haiti to aid earthquake-relief efforts after the conference is over. Ralph Childs, the managing partner of GTech Medical Services LLC, which is co-ordinating the donation initiative with IIR Middle East, said the congress is the ideal venue to involve the world's healthcare community.

"Most of [the exhibitors] have shipped in medical equipment and supplies for display at the show that either gets given away, thrown out or shipped back at greater expense after the show," Mr Childs said. "These items are desperately needed in Haiti right now." This year's keynote speaker, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will address the conference on Thursday.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae