Red tape slashed for doctors visiting Dubai
Dubai Healthcare City has introduced a visiting-physician licence that will enable specialists to practise for a short period of time.
The new licence is valid for a month at a time and renewable up to three times a year. To reassure patients, it will also show a visiting doctor's credentials and history of practice.
The scheme is expected to encourage the already booming healthcare tourism sector. A survey last year found 80 per cent of doctors believed medical tourists visited Dubai because of the high quality of care they received.
The time taken to register visiting specialists under the existing system is a deterrent, said Dr Ramadan Al Blooshi, managing director of the healthcare city authority. "The timeline to license a professional is two to three months, on average, but can take up to nine months.
"You have to check everything, from certificates to good standing, exam qualifications and title. Because it can take a long time to approve, it puts off some top specialists from coming to Dubai to work."
In a survey commissioned by DHC, respondents from 120 medical facilities said infertility treatment was the most popular procedure. Other common referrals were for cosmetic, dental, cardiac and orthopaedic surgery, treatment or tests.
"We want to continue to be a hub of medical tourism in Dubai and have the best institutions here," Dr Al Blooshi said.
"We will not accept a doctor lower than a consultant in their own country but they must have evidence they are needed in Dubai. The infrastructure of Dubai allows it to be a hub for medical tourism."
The changes to medical licensing will be announced in more detail at the Arab Health Conference, which begins in Dubai on January 26.
To cope with rising demand, plans are under way to build 22 new hospitals in Dubai to attract 500,000 medical tourists a year by 2020.
Dubai Health Authority has said 18 private and four public hospitals will be built, with numbers of healthcare staff likely to swell to more than 3,800.
Infertility treatments are in demand by visitors in Dubai because of cultural, financial and legal restrictions, or long waiting lists elsewhere, experts have said.
The average stay of medical tourists in Dubai is seven to 10 days, but there has also been an increase in special-needs patients arriving from overseas for longer treatments.
Dr Fatma Al Sharaf, senior manager at DHC, is leading the free zone's medical tourism initiative.
"We have a lot of patients coming from other GCC countries for their special-needs kids," she said.
"This treatment often requires regular sessions. We also have recorded cases of patients who have improved their statuses as special needs."
Names and qualifications of doctors already practising in DHC and a list of the languages they speak can be found on its website. Doctors must also provide proof of their insurance to obtain a licence.
Trust in a doctor's capabilities is the bedrock of attracting more patients to DHC, Dr Al Sharaf said.
"Patients are also coming here for ophthalmology, cosmetic surgery and bone surgery," she said. "It is easy for people to come to Dubai as the culture and language is often the same; it makes it comfortable for them."
Key findings from last year's 2014 DHC survey showed that 48 per cent of medical tourists were primarily from the GCC, with 32 per cent from the wider Arab world. Patients from Europe made up 26 per cent, and 23 per cent were from Asia.
Updated: January 17, 2015 04:00 AM