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Thu 30 May 2013 02:01 PM

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Healthcare comes of age

World-class medical care is a worthy ambition for the region AND it's profitable

Healthcare comes of age

We were already well underway with this week’s special GCC hospitals edition of Construction Week magazine when the Al Noor flotation announcement landed on my desk.

Quite simply, Abu Dhabi’s largest private healthcare provider – 1.5million patients and a claimed 35 per cent of the market place – is set to go for a listing on the London Stock Exchange later this year. It has top doctors and consistently ranks well in patient satisfaction surveys and, though I am now financial analyst, my guess is this will be a sure-fire winner when the flotation occurs.

Even ignoring the announcement hype, there is little doubt that smart money in the region is going into healthcare and it is easy to see why.

The emirates’ population is growing and aging. Despite the almost mandatory ejection of ex-pat workers before they reach pensionable age, the compound annual growth rate for the emirates is 1.7% each a year until 2030, while for the over-65s it’s 9.2%.

So, there’ll be a lot of old people needing care. Alongside that life-style related medical conditions are on the increase: diabetes (18.9%) is well documented in the region but obesity (30.4%), cancer and heart problems are also more likely in wealthier countries like the UAE.

If you are into providing healthcare then this is the place to focus. Leaders across the region want to offer world-beating health facilities and, importantly, they have the money to do it.

And with the medical facilities on offer, more and more people will travel from abroad to take advantage.

The idea that people will holiday in the region specifically to get the medical care they require, has been widely discussed already.

In my home country of Britain its much-praised (and criticised) NHS service now routinely sends patients to the private sector for treatment and sends patients abroad for some operations. It is also increasingly common for people seeking cosmetic surgery to fly from the UK to countries where it is either cheaper, or not so tightly regulated (or both).

Health tourism is big business and there is every indication that if there’s a need, then the emirates led by Dubai, will seek to meet the demand.

Further into this issue you can take a look at the hospital projects across the region. Governments are building hospitals, then handing over services to the experts.

Healthcare investment across the GCC is a vital part of development for the people and brings obvious opportunities for our industry.

The Hospital Build & Infrastructure Exhibition in Dubai later this week brings together people across the spectrum of construction.

Yamurai Zendera writes in his analysis of hospital spending: “The UAE healthcare market has expanded by almost 100% in this year alone, and is on a path to becoming a Dhs44 billion industry by 2015.”

Healthcare has come of age and there are huge opportunities for contructors... and the people.

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