United Arab Emirates| Healthcare tourism

Outsourcing treatment in Abu Dhabi, Emirates

The HAAD intentions to partner with external institutions to provide training to its professionals may be aimed at reducing the number of medical persons seeking medical services elsewhere. Connell (2006) observes that most ‘medical tourists are from rich world countries… where the ability to pay for alternatives is high’ and identifies Middle East to be among the culprits of providing such personalities (p. 1096). In fact, according to a Times of Oman (2005, June 15) UAE was among other countries such as Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman that provided a bulk of foreign patients that an Indian hospital dealt with (as cited in Connell 2006). However what could probably indicate how much a proportion AD contributes to this kind of tourism is the statement by a Malaysian group of hospitals’ manager that indicated that one of the large onshore oil operations corporations from AD frequently engaged their services for its workforce checkups (Landais & Bardsley 2005). Recent reports have also shown that the number that is traveling out of UAE to in search of treatment keeps on increasing (Ghosh 2010). This indicates that healthcare tourism could be a main concern for the entire UAE

            Perspectives on medical tourism in Abu Dhabi

To gain an understanding of the extent to which health tourism had affected the AD healthcare system 4 people holding different leadership positions were interviewed. At first the interview sought to evaluate the reasons advanced for travelling to obtain medical services abroad. The responses to the interview brought out different themes as advanced by Chanda (2001) and Garcia- Altes (2005) that contributing factors included the cost of healthcare and quality received treatment availability, availability of alternative procedures and medication, long waiting list especially in government institutions, and the proximity to the regions from where the services were outsourced. Further the interviewed leaders singled out India, Thailand and Singapore as most preferred destinations for AD residents who sought treatment from abroad. The cost implication and having to wait for long without getting the right service were the most identified reasons that influenced AD residents to seek treatment elsewhere.

On how big the trend to outsource the services was the leaders noted that in the past there an increasing number of people went out of the UAE to other areas for treatment. However the leaders noted that the quality improvement measures that had been implemented in AD (HAAD 2009b) together with the emphasis the government had laid on healthcare issues in its 2030 strategic plan (‘Highlights of the UAE Government strategy,’ 2007) had lead to a sharp decline in the numbers that sought such services outside UAE. This was also noted to have been further helped by the measures that the government had instituted in other places such as Dubai (Vequist 2009). The leaders noted that these measures had lead to the UAE even becoming one of the destinations for medical tourists albeit in small numbers (Horowitz, Rosensweig, & Jones 2007).

The sourcing of medical services from different countries was noted mainly in respect of economic gains. The leaders noted that countries to which the services were sourced had used the huge foreign exchange generated to better their healthcare systems whereas those from the home countries of the tourists remained in pathetic state due to lack of requisite funding. The leaders however agreed that any country whose population viewed foreign healthcare services to be better than that provided at home was supposed to change aspects that aggravated their systems to prevent massive foreign exchange outflows (Diane 2008). The leaders noted that to enhance such kind of tourism the countries to which the procedures where being outsourced had started marketing strategies such as such as issuing specific nonimmigrant visas to persons seeking these services to facilitate their travel hence luring them to consider what the countries offered (Reed 2008). In such ways it was noted that the countries were able to sustain effective healthcare systems. Go to part 5 here.

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