Dubai, Qatar taking steps to enhance health care services

UAE and Qatar are taking steps to make their cities destinations for health care services.
UAE and Qatar are taking steps to make their cities destinations for health care services.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) Regulations Department recently implemented VIP licensing for medical  professionals, one of a number of efforts aimed at revitalizing the health care economy in the Middle East. 

With more than 30,000 health professionals in the capital city, the DHA Regulations Department gets hundreds of licensing requests each day. The new system is meant to help with the logjam by expediting the license process, cutting the time from two weeks to five days.  

"The introduction of this service will directly benefit all health professionals including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals who are keen to get a license to practice in Dubai," DHA Director of Health Regulation  Layla Al Marzouqi said. “It will also benefit health investors who wish to set up health facilities in Dubai. … We reckon this service will provide new applications with ease and convenience.” 

Elsewhere in the region, efforts to modernize and enhance health care services are also underway.
In Qatar, leaders are courting outside professionals and trying to facilitate more vibrant health networks to serve Qatari citizens and others in the region.  

“Qatar is making concerted efforts to modernize and enhance its health care sector,” Lim Ban Hoe, regional director of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore’s international operations in the Middle East and Africa, wrote in a March 2009 government paper on international partnerships that detailed the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between the two countries on the health care front. 

Hoe said at the time that there were opportunities for Singapore companies in infrastructure development of health care facilities, health care related ICT solutions and health care insurance. 

"Coupled with Singapore’s reputation for our medical excellence, there is strong potential for partnership between Singapore health care players and Qatari health care companies and institutions," he wrote. "This being the largest business mission that IE Singapore has organized to Doha, we are heartened by the companies’ enthusiastic response and healthy interest and look forward to seeing the Singapore brand of health care flourish in the Middle East.”

The new efforts of these Gulf nations are often evident to those who travel there. Dr. Edmund Herod of Houston Community College (HCC), told the Gulf News Journal last week that he has seen a greater move to remake Qatar into a kind of “medical tourism” destination. Herod has spent a lot of time in Qatar in past years as the dean of an HCC pilot school there.

“They are spending enormous sums of money to beef up their health care system.” Herod said. “It's a good thing. They need medical facilities in the region.”

Herod cited an article from Business Quarter (BQ) Magazine showing how wealthy individuals from all over the world travel to places like Saudi Arabia and other regional countries for major health care services. According to BQ, part of the revitalized focus on medicine in the Gulf is to attract wealthy Americans. And, although procedures like gastric bypass and heart surgeries are often part of “medical tourism,” the practice also extends to elective surgeries, where a renowned cosmetic surgery center might drive a lot of business to a provider. BQ cites an estimated cosmetic surgery industry of $6.4 billion in 2013, for an increase of 7.3 percent year-over-year.

New expedited licensing could be a step in the right direction for countries like UAE and Qatar to make their cities new destinations for health care services.

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Dubai Health Authority

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