By Joanne Bladd
EXCLUSIVE: Project chief says 2011 deadline was 'too aggressive'.
Dubai Healthcare City’s (DHCC) flagship hospital is expected to miss its scheduled completion date of early 2011, after a senior official admitted the free zone is revising its “aggressive timeline” in the wake of the financial crash.
The 400-bed University Hospital, the jewel in the crown of the $5.3bn healthcare city, now has no firm opening date, said senior vice president Ayesha Abdullah.
“We are currently reviewing our timelines because of the economic factors. Because we are reviewing this, I can’t tell you exactly when, an exact time when the hospital will open,” she told Arabian Business.
“The timelines anyway were aggressive to begin with, because we wanted to get the project finished.”
When asked if the teaching hospital was on hold because of a lack of funding, Abdullah refused to comment, but said DHCC was “committed to completing University Hospital and all the other facilities that go with the Academic Medical Centre".
DHCC was launched in 2002, in a bid to stem the tide of local patients seeking medical care abroad. The city, which houses 92 clinical outlets, is a unit of Dubai Holding, a state-owned developer that has $1.25bn in debts maturing in the first half of 2010.
Also on Wednesday, it was confirmed that one of DHCC's most prestigious healthcare brands, the US-based Mayo Clinic, was shutting its clinical practice.
Taysir Khatib, regional manager for Mayo Clinic, confirmed it was closing its practice but denied this was due to a lack of patients.
This is the second significant closure for DHCC, which last year shuttered its outpatient care centre, Dubai Medical Suites (DMS), less than six months after its launch.
Unveiled in January 2009, DMS was intended to lure in foreign hospitals, which would offer visiting specialists and share the costs of funding the 20-clinic centre.
However, it failed to spark the interest of US and European hospitals facing a recession in their home markets, Abdullah said.
“We found this model was challenging...the uptake from doctors overseas, when the model was built on cost sharing, the physicians were not encouraged to take it up.”
The free zone, which has seen 200,000 patients in three years of operation, has offered financial breaks, such as reduced rents, to a number of clinics in a bid to nurse them through the economic crisis, Abdullah said.
“We work with clients on a case-by-case basis. We have multiple ways of trying to relieve the financial burden. We work on the overheads… we look at what the level of financial difficulty is and we also make financial concessions. A few [have closed].”
It really makes sense... doctors are probably one of the highest paid professions in the western world. why would they take a risk to come to a market which is still young (in terms of medical laws) and put their reputations on the line. Unfortunately, Dubai still has a way to go when it comes to healthcare. to say that you operate a hospital in dubai is not going to help you. in finance, to say you operate in dubai is a great thing...
This announcement is a step forward in the sense that at least there is some acknowledement that all is not well. The flip side is that all the employees of UHD (bar 3) were made redundant in April 09. So all in the industry knew that the project was as good as dead. The DHCC concept was always one that was, in my opinion, a non starter. We now have Mayo closing and many other clinics there closing due to lack of patients, high rents, extreme regulatory requirements etc etc. The orignal concept was good but was taken over by a real estate play. Shame.
This is not to criticize UAE or Dubai, i have worked there, and love to come back again to live and work. Once i went for an emergency to the american hospital, very neat, well treated, extremely polite nurses, TV, a newspaper to read, best equipment, but where's the qualified doctor. The doctor was ok, but not up to the real medical expectations, the diagnosis was done by the machines!! And what made me more sad is their question: how are you going to pay. I used my credit card as if in a hotel. Please, medicine is not finance or engineering, it is not to be treated as profit generating business, at least when building a country.
Whatever the real reasons for the closing of the Mayo facility, the act is one of huge significance because it ends the myth that this folly was to be the Gulf's Harley Street, as it was touted years back. The reason so many go abroad for medical care is not just quality, it is privacy. You can't have that facelift in Dubai without the whole world knowing about it. The aggressive timing is also a thing of the past in Dubai, which has learned that aggression has its price.
I find it quite baffeling why we need to create facilitites to attract doctors from abroad to treat patients providing five star amenities. Why this obsession that we have to be always alluded with superlative adjectives- the largest , the tallest, the beggest, the fastest, the luxurious, and so forth ?.... Let everything be given a breathing space and let the growth take its natural pace, and it is how great nations have been built.