Building a community

Building a community

Claire Mahoney reports on the $1.8bn Healthcare City project in Dubai, which will provide an “integrated community of healthcare services.”

Dubai has a track record of ambitious building projects. Its architectural landmarks are world-renowned. In the last few years the Dubai Development and Investment Authority has been progressing a building programme that has realised a succession of specialist business parks such as Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City. The next project on the list is dedicated to healthcare and will result in one the most comprehensive healthcare facilities in the world.

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is a US$1.8bn project, funded through public and private sector partnership, that aims to attract around US$2bn of the US$74bn spent on healthcare in the region by 2005. Phase one of the 4.7m ft2 facility is due to begin next month with completion scheduled for the first quarter of next year. When completed, the site will cover some 10 m2.

According to the developers, DHCC is far from just another real estate project. Its aim is to plug the regional gap for specialised healthcare services for patients and staff. As well as a university hospital, GP surgeries and day clinics, the site will include a postgraduate medical school and a life sciences research centre. Currently people in the region spend around $1bn a year getting treatment abroad and most medical staff train in the US or Europe.

Mohammed AI Qergawi, chairman of the Dubai Development Authority, of which DHCC is a subsidiary, says the project is a response to the huge demand for specialised regional healthcare services, and will help to transform the UAE into a regional hub for healthcare services. “The medical sector in the region is expanding rapidly and it is expected that for the first time at regional level, comprehensive healthcare facilities will be available under one roof.”

The project hopes to attract around $4.8bn worth of investment and DHCC is currently holding talks with medical technology companies and healthcare institutions. What makes it different is its aim to provide the complete cycle of healthcare services, from prevention right through to rehabilitation. “DHCC is unique because it will be an integrated community of healthcare services covering the entire value chain, from acute care all the way to preventative medicine,” says marketing representative Samira Shihabi.

The facility will be based on a ‘Mediterranean-style’ design, and will integrate two clusters – one for medical services and one for “wellness.” The medical cluster will contain day clinics, private hospitals, diagnostic centres, a rehabilitation centre, pharmaceutical businesses and medical device companies.

Day clinics will be offered to GPs on a 100% ownership basis giving them access to all the healthcare facilities on site. They will even be able to purchase fully-fitted clinics. The first day clinics are expected to be operational by 2007.

The existing 160-bed university hospital has a planned expansion to 600 beds and will specialise in areas of specific concern to the region such as cardiology, oncology, diabetes, urology and paediatrics. The site for HCC is already in an area populated by three of the city’s major hospitals. But the aim is not to make these facilities compete, says Shihabi. “The idea is to create a complimentary system to Dubai’s existing hospitals.”

Wellness is a high priority in healthcare services in the Middle East, especially in business centres such as Dubai. It is claimed the wellness cluster will feature better facilities than those found at some of the city’s best hotels. It will house nutrition centres, sports medicine clinics, and a resort and spa for patients, families and staff.

Supporting the two clusters will be various healthcare companies including telemedicine and ehealth firms, providing services that will integrate the wellness and medical clusters and also provide links to specialist medical institutions both in and outside the region.

According to AI Gergawi the future of DHCC will be flexible. “Our immediate goal is to provide patients with healthcare services and procedures not currently available in the region. The future may involve having specialist hospitals in the medical cluster.”

Copyright Wilmington Publishing Ltd. Mar 2003

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