Dubai Healthcare City in the Persian Gulf expects one day to be a larger entity than the Harvard-affiliated medical complex here in Boston, according to today’s Wall Street Journal (Health-Care Building Booms in Persian Gulf). Medical equipment makers, construction and engineering firms, and academic medical centers from the US are salivating over the opportunity to soak up some petrodollars as Dubai and other Persian Gulf nations gorge on health care infrastructure. Why is this happening?
- Much like Native Americans, whose metabolism adapted to a nomadic lifestyle and near-starvation diet, many of the kingdoms’ formerly nomadic residents live sedentary lifestyles and eat poorly. Obesity and diabetes epidemics are arriving in a hurry and the rulers are worried about how they’re going to deal with it.
- Meanwhile, post-September 11, wealthy Arabs have been less inclined to travel to the US for care, and it’s become harder to get visas. Some patients have gone to places like Singapore and the Philippines instead.
- Local patients would rather not travel to far-off places, especially where Arabic isn’t widely spoken and where religious necessities such as mosques and halal food aren’t available.
The article also says Dubai is looking to attract medical tourists from other regions, but I don’t think this is terribly realistic. Healthcare City will struggle initially, especially at the human resources level. I have my doubts about the number of physicians who will want to make their careers there. It will take more than money to make Healthcare City an attractive environment and the Gulf will need to develop medical and nursing schools to feed the long-term need with local talent.
There is a nearby country with world-class medical care, modern infrastructure, a substantial Muslim population and where Arabic is an official language: Israel. Check out Hadassah Medical Center –for example– in Arabic, English, Hebrew or Russian.
Perhaps medical tourism can become a conduit to the normalization of relations, at least among private citizens.