With demand for hospital beds in the region set to double by 2025, Arabian Gulf countries are rushing to meet the unprecedented challenge with a near $10 billion hospital building programme, say industry experts.
The programme – which does not include the budgets for required medical equipment – is led by Saudi Arabia with dozens of public and private sector hospital and clinic projects worth a total of around $6.5 billion in progress, according to statistics compiled by database company Proleads.
“Arabian Gulf governments have been encouraging international institutions to set up health care facilities in the region but many more providers will be required to meet the huge future demand,” said Simon Page, Director of Healthcare for IIR Middle East, organisers of Arab Health, the region’s premier event for the health care industry which takes place from 28 – 31 January 2008 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Qatar, with a substantially smaller number of health care facilities underway, comes second after Saudi Arabia in terms of hospital projects with a $1.5 billion set aside. The UAE has nine current hospital projects with a value of $596 million; Kuwait has four valued at $428 million; and Bahrain one worth $130 million.
The driving force is an unparalleled rise in regional demand for health care forecast for the next two decades. Consultants McKinsey & Co. recently estimated total health care spending in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries will reach $60 billion by 2025.
“No other region in the world faces such rapid growth in demand,” McKinsey said, predicting the need for 162,000 more hospital beds with the biggest increases in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The challenges faced by government and private health care players will be in evidence at the Arab Health exhibition and congress which brings healthcare providers, manufacturers, dealers and distributors together with some of the most important and influential decision-makers in the region’s health sector.
Products and services from more than 2300 exhibitors representing over 65 countries and more than 50,000 healthcare professionals from all over the world are expected at the 2008 event, breaking all past records. The region faces three major driving factors which are dramatically increasing health care demand – population growth, an aging population and unique health risks. “Total GCC population by 2025 is expected to be twice what it is today,” said Page. “In addition, improvements in life expectancy mean more elderly people requiring care. For example, a sevenfold increase is forecast in those over 65 in Saudi Arabia during the next 25 years.”
The region also has major and growing health risk factors among GCC nationals with the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity at unusually high levels relative to the rest of the world. “Levels of diabetes have been put by the World Health Organisation at 25% of UAE citizens with the level of obesity for GCC nationals at 40%,” Page added. “The health complications associated with both will have a dramatic impact in coming years.”