Abu Dhabi, 26 May 2015: Private investment is helping drive the United Arab Emirates towards its goal of implementing international best-practice in healthcare by 2021, but the sector needs to work harder to attract and retain skilled staff, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit report commissioned by Abu Dhabi-based investment company Waha Capital.
In the report, called “Investing in quality”, senior executives in healthcare policy making, operational management and insurance provision in the UAE said growing private sector involvement and greater international accreditation are helping to lift quality standards markedly.
This should persuade more people to seek healthcare services in the UAE, rather than traveling abroad, which can result in much higher expenses for families – often a cost borne by government budgets. A Gallup survey in 2012 showed that two in five Emiratis had a preference for treatment abroad.
“The UAE authorities have rightly pinpointed healthcare as a priority area for private investment, and the policy is clearly working to raise standards. It is very encouraging that global accreditation bodies such as the Joint Commission International are now highly active in the country,” said Salem Al Noaimi, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Waha Capital. “The nature of competition means that credibility and reputation are key, especially in highly sensitive areas such as personal health.”
He added: “As international best practice becomes common practice in the UAE, there will be no need to look overseas for care. This will not only alleviate pressure on government budgets, it will also enable patients to receive medical care and recuperate on their home turf amongst their families.”
Waha Capital is investing in the healthcare sector through its wholly owned subsidiary, Anglo-Arabian Healthcare Group, one of the fastest growing healthcare companies in the country in terms of assets.
While praising the improved climate for private investment in healthcare, the executives interviewed for the report pointed out two major challenges for the sector: human resources and varying regulations across the nation’s seven emirates.
The growth of private healthcare provision has increased the number of doctors and nurses in the country – with those in the private sector jumping by over 40 percent in 2012 alone, when seven new hospitals opened.
But with the number of healthcare workers needing to rise by 50 percent over the next six years to meet government targets, staff turnover remains high, the report found. This is partly because many developing country practitioners use the UAE as a path to a career in Western Europe and North America.
The report found that private healthcare companies looking to expand across the UAE also find regulatory differences between emirates a challenge, particularly when it comes to licensing healthcare practitioners.
“The UAE provides an excellent environment for private healthcare providers, and experienced management teams have the opportunity to build scale and raise operating and clinical standards,” said Mark Adams, Chief Executive Officer of Anglo Arabian Healthcare Group.
“It’s clear that staffing is an issue for the sector, and it is up to operators to provide the right incentives to attract and retain skilled employees. However, I see this as a virtual cycle. As quality of healthcare provision rises, the UAE will be recognised by doctors and nurses as one of the most desirable places to work in the world, not a stepping stone.”