x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

GCC health spending expected to soar

Healthcare spending in the GCC is expected to quadruple by 2025, mainly due to an ageing population and a rapid rise in the number of people with diabetes.

DUBAI // Healthcare spending in the GCC is expected to quadruple by 2025, mainly due to an ageing population and a rapid rise in the number of people with diabetes. According to McKinsey and Company, a New York-based management consulting firm, spending on health care in the region is expected to increase from US$15 billion (Dh55.05bn) to $60bn over the period. Viktor Hediger, a health care consultant with McKinsey, told the MEED Middle East Health Care Conference here yesterday that the UAE in particular faced a "cost explosion" in 20 years because of its diabetes epidemic.

He warned that other ailments expected to affect the ageing population, such as cardiovascular disease, would also drive up costs and place a greater strain on the healthcare system. However, the system would be able to cope with such problems as long as money was invested in the right areas, he said. "With all the expatriates and Emiratis living in the UAE, we already have pockets of oversupply and fundamental undersupply in other areas, such as preventative medicine, primary care and rehabilitation," Mr Hediger said. "We need to focus on providing what is needed in every area."

Faisal Belhoul, managing director of the Dubai-based Healthcare Network, said the Government needed to create a better forum for the private sector to forge partnerships and take a more active role in the healthcare industry. "Co-operation is the key word - and the ability for the Government to recognise the importance of the private sector and engage it in a way that is truly favourable to all parties is very important.

"When it comes to health care we are not in the top five in the world, or the top 10 or the top 50, and the question is, 'Why? And what can we do to change this?' Quadrupling health spending is not something to be taken lightly." Currently, health authorities across the Emirates are implementing reforms to improve their standards of care. The Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) recently introduced new standards to which all medical staff and facilities must adhere. The new Dubai Health Authority is overhauling its regulatory system and introducing a new body to take charge of changing laws, licensing processes and standards.

Speaking at the conference, Sarper Tanli, the executive director for Europe, Middle East and Africa in the Methodist International hospital group, said the UAE's healthcare system was improving but there was still much to do. munderwood@thenational.ae