DUBAI // Spending on health care is expected to increase by 250 per cent and the number of hospital beds to double by 2025.
Since the UAE spends about Dh45 billion a year on public health, that would mean an increase in the healthcare budget to about Dh122.5bn in less than 15 years. Private sector figures are not available.
Saeed Ali Al Shamsi, director of technical operations at the Dubai Health Authority, said a steep increase in demand for medical services was expected across the GCC because of a rise in the number of patients, "particularly in terms of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and road traffic accidents".
More than 2,000 additional hospital beds will be required in the next 15 years to meet the demands of the UAE's growing population, said Abdul Salam Al Madani, the Emirati chairman of the Global Scientific Committee with the International Hospital Federation.
A lack of investment in specialised centres exacerbated the problem, he said. "We're doing a great job in the field of primary care and general medicine, but a poor job in establishing specialised hospitals."
Centres dedicated to treating patients with cancer and disfiguring burns, as well as neonatal hospitals and respiratory centres, are particularly needed.
Progress in the efficient management of resources is important in the country and the region, Mr Al Madani said. "While the public and private sectors are investing in designing and developing iconic hospital buildings Ö and more importantly assigning the work force of doctors, nurses and technologists, we are not focusing and paying enough attention to the management part of health care."
This "mismanagement" of the industry and its resources is what drives patients in the region to seek health care abroad, he said.
"It is not because we don't have good doctors or nurses, or even the latest equipment and technologies. It is because of the lack of focus on the management within hospitals and health care organisations."
Expansion plans by the DHA include primary care centres in Al Barsha by mid-2012 and in Al Warqaa by 2013; Al Jalila Children's Specialty Hospital, a dedicated 200-bed paediatric facility; and Al Maktoum Emergency and Trauma Centre, an 800-bed facility that will also serve as a hospital.
"We are constantly studying the areas where further expansion is needed," Mr Al Shamsi said. "We look at two aspects of expansion: a necessity as the result of a natural growth, and keeping up with the constantly progressing technologies."
Mr Al Shamsi said the DHA is also paving the way for the private sector to fill in the gaps.
"We hope that they will at least fulfil 50 to 60 per cent of this new demand," he said. "As a regulator, we want to give the private sector a bigger role in the industry's development and progress."
Partnership with the private sector is a key "innovative solution" to coping with the increasing demands, said Laila Al Jassmi, chief executive of the health policy and strategy sector at the DHA.
"This partnership will improve quality and efficiency by accessing private sector expertise and experience," she said. "This will also help transfer knowledge and technology into projects."
Through the sharing of resources, a public-private partnership will streamline management.
Ms Al Jassmi said the DHA is working with the Executive Council to develop a public-private partnership law that will act as the standard for all operational models that fall under the new scheme.
"Some countries don't have a law but still have a successfully running public-private partnership model," she said. "But we found that having a law that will streamline all the activities will protect our rights as well as those of our private investors."
However, generating private sector interest will be successful only if information is readily available to potential investors, said Mr Al Madani.
"We have had companies who are showing interest, but then it is difficult to get statistics and information from the health authorities," he said. "They need to have this information before they decide to invest. And this information must be up-to-date, accurate and consistent."
The health experts were speaking at the 37th World Hospital Congress in Dubai, the first time it has been held in the region. Mr Al Madani is also the chairman of Index Holding, organisers of the three-day congress that features more than 1,000 health professionals and 60 exhibitors from around the world.