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High Cost of Healthcare Leading to Competitive Disadvantages in UAE

The rapidly developing sector in the United Arab Emirates faces challenges to its long-term sustainability due to the relatively high cost of medical provision in the country, according to Grant Thornton, one of the world’s leading independently owned accounting and consulting firms.

Competitor countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, have already established a strong reputation for quality, low-cost healthcare provision, and therefore have significant first-mover advantages compared to the , according to “Transforming the Middle East’s healthcare model,” a recently published research report by Grant Thornton.

Following the conclusion of the Arab Health Exhibition and Congress, which took place from January 25-28, 2010, Farouk Mohamed, Managing Partner, Grant Thornton UAE, highlighted the need for cost rationalization in the country’s , pointing out that the average cost of heart bypass surgery in the UAE stood at US$44,000, compared with an average of US$18,500 in Singapore, US$11,000 in Thailand, US$10,000 in India and US$9,000 in Malaysia.

“While the cost of healthcare provision in the UAE compares very favorably with most Western markets,” said Mohamed, “the long-term development of the country’s medical tourism sector remains extremely price-dependent. That is especially true during a period of global economic instability and relatively low levels of consumer confidence, worldwide and here in the Middle East.”

Hisham Farouk, International Practice Partner, Grant Thornton UAE, highlighted that Singapore, for example, has stated that it aims to attract 1 million medical tourists a year by 2012, and that the UAE also has the opportunity and means to become an important regional medical tourism destination.

“The further development of the medical tourism sector in the UAE, although dependent upon more competitive costs, can provide the country with significant direct and indirect benefits,” said Farouk.

“There is no question that the existing infrastructure in the UAE, and especially in clusters such as Dubai Healthcare City, is already well developed,” he said. “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.”

“Transforming the Middle East’s healthcare model,” a Grant Thornton report, looks into future prospects for the healthcare sector in the Middle East, reviewing the key issues, providing insight into each of the main Middle East markets and identifying potential opportunities for private healthcare participants and investors.

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