The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is lagging behind other developed economies in terms of healthcare infrastructure provision, with more hospital beds needed across the region, according to a report.
The study by real estate consultancy JLL highlights a shortage of hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities across MENA, and states that with medical tourism a priority for many regional governments, there is a pressing need to improve provision.
Per capita spending on healthcare in the UAE is only 17 percent of what is being spent in Switzerland, and MENA has an average of 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 population in comparison to an OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) average of 4.8 beds, the report notes citing OECD figures.
JLL said to maintain the current provision rate of hospital beds per person, 10,500 additional beds were needed in the five major cities across the region – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah and Cairo – over the next five years, which equates to 70 additional hospitals, assuming a typical ratio of 150 beds per hospital.
If the region were to increase the provision of hospital beds in line with the current OECD average, a huge 470,000 additional beds would be required, which equates to 3,130 new hospitals to be developed across these same.
If there is a need to increase the provision of hospital beds in line with the current OECD average of 4.8 beds per one thousand people, a staggering 470,000 additional beds would be required, which equates to 3,130 new hospitals required across these five major cities by 2022.
The region also has an ageing poulation, the report noted, with the number of people over 65 years predicted to increase by 4.4 percent per annum to 26 million over the next five years and associated healthcare provision required.
With demand growing, the healthcare sector represents a huge opportunity for real estate investors, JLL says. With its reputation for transparency and an investor-friendly environment that has long attracted private finance.
The UAE has a reputation for transparency and an investor-friendly environment, and has attracted a number of overseas healthcare providers to the country, such as the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi and the Moorfield’s Eye Hospital in Dubai.
“The government of Dubai has reinforced its support for the healthcare sector with the creation of Dubai Healthcare City,” said Craig Plumb, director or research at JLL MENA. “The aim is to attract private investment and promote the city as a healthcare destination, welcoming 500,000 medical tourists by 2020.”
Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, has placed healthcare among its nine strategic pillars in its 2030 Economic Vision, providing further potential opportunities for investors to build new facilities and upgrade existing ones.
Further, developers of larger planned communities in the region are also recognising the need to incorporate clinics and other non-specialist healthcare facilities in their schemes, the report says.
Said Plumb: “The main challenge to the healthcare sector in the UAE is meeting the high standards required to become an international healthcare hub.
“To meet those goals, a suitable education and training strategy needs to be implemented. Meeting the needs of a growing, ageing population, which will add to increasing costs, will also provide challenges.”
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.