Oversupply in Abu Dhabi market impacts medical travel sector

 

Despite spending very large sums of money, Abu Dhabi's medical tourism sector is only slowly developing, in spite of recent press releases and heavy promotion at trade fairs and conferences.

Most recently in the press, the healthcare arm of Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment Company announced it had signed an agreement with Nirvana Travel and Tourism to work together to encourage medical tourists from the Gulf region, Africa, Russia, China and India. 

Mubadala's healthcare network includes Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, National Reference Laboratory, Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, Capital Health Screening Centre and Amana Healthcare. The deal seeks to create attractive and all-inclusive medical tourism packages, as well as exploring joint marketing and business opportunities

At the end of last year, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health and Department of Culture and Tourism jointly set up a patient portal, intended as a one-stop shop where potential medical tourists can find useful information. The portal still, however, does not list clinics and hospitals specifically seeking medical tourists.

A combination of a reduction in expatriate numbers and the oversupply of hospital beds is getting worse across the UAE, which will lead to increased competition for domestic and international business. There are already 60 hospitals and 700 clinics in Abu Dhabi alone.

Market rumours of financial problems being experienced by some hospitals that expanded on borrowed money recently became real when a major Abu Dhabi hospital, The Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi, announced it had shut its doors. It is possible it won’t be the last to close.

The Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi was shut down with the approval of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health. So rapid was the closure that patients had to be moved to alternative hospitals. The 200-bed multispecialty hospital’s financial problems saw medical staff leaving in advance of the closure as many were owed money. The hospital originally opened in 2013, but in April 2019, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health that regulates healthcare facilities in the Emirate, temporarily closed it for failing to meet health and safety standards. Patients were then transferred to other facilities, but the hospital re-opened in May. Attempts to shore up finances through new investment failed as local and global investors become wary that healthcare profitability in the UAE may have peaked.

For a more detailed analysis of inbound medical tourism prospects for Abu Dhabi and Dubai sign up to the IMTJ Country Profiles.

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