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Thu 16 Oct 2008 02:25 PM

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Healthcare fees to surge, industry warns

Patients across the Gulf hit by increasing fees as hospitals struggle to contain costs.

Medical patients across the Gulf are being hit by increasing healthcare fees as hospitals struggle with higher costs sparked by population growth, inflation and rising staff salaries.

Colin Ward, business development manager at insurance firm William Russell told Arabian Business high population growth, particularly among expatriates, coupled with shortages of qualified medical staff means Dubai hospitals are facing the “daunting task” of dealing with an increasing number of patients.

“These factors are driving costs in medical industry up, and can potentially increase the chances of errors in judgment, diagnosis, drug prescription and safety which could put further strain on the existing medical staff,” he said. In June, consultancy firm McKinsey & Co published a report on the challenges facing the Gulf’s healthcare systems, warning the region was unprepared for a massive rise in demand for healthcare.

According to McKinsey, demand for treatment in the UAE is expected to rise by 240 percent. The biggest rise in demand will relate to cardiovascular disease and diabetes-related ailments.

Ward warned that pressure to ensure that patients are treated in an appropriate timescale could see medical staff facing longer working hours in a high pressure environment.

This could also lead to non-essential medical procedures such as preventative treatments and wellbeing health checks being overlooked, and there may also be pressure on safety checks, surveillance and cleanliness in many hospitals, he added.

Dr. Ezzat Al-Agamy, network director of Abu Dhabi-based insurance group Daman, said UAE hospitals have been hit by a range of issues which have forced their expenses up.

"Healthcare costs are up this year due to many factors including hiring international staff, higher cost for medical equipment and the general inflation. This increase in costs has led many insurance companies to increase their premiums.”

Daman was attempting to keep premium increases as low as possible by working closely with healthcare providers, Dr Al-Agamy said.

The cost of hiring staff is expected to drive up the cost of providing healthcare in the Gulf fivefold by 2025, leaving regional economies with a $60 billion medical bill to pay by 2025.

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