Gulf region hospital bed numbers way below global average

Hospital bed penetration across the region still falls well short of the global average, despite a wave of healthcare investment.

According to Alpen Capital, which released its healthcare industry report on Tuesday, medical inflation – resulting from investments by hospitals in infrastructure, health technology and staff salaries – across the Arabian Gulf region was at 6.8 per cent in 2014. Alpen expected it to remain steady at that rate.

In the UAE, medical inflation was 2.3 per cent in 2014 and is forecast to touch 3.4 per cent by 2020.

“With the economy under stress, the government has to promote healthcare infrastructure and to do that there has to be a heavy reliance on the private sector,” said Sanjay Vig, the managing director of Alpen Capital.

Alpen Capital expected healthcare spending in the UAE to touch US$19.5 billion in 2020, up from $10.7bn last year.

The demand for hospital beds is expected to rise by almost 3 per cent each year to reach 13,800 beds by 2020. A growing population and introduction of mandatory health coverage are fuelling much of the growth.

The region had, on average, 17 beds per 10,000 people, according the latest data from 2012. That fell short of the global average of 27 beds per 10,000 people, the report.

In the Arabian Gulf region, the UAE accounts for 26 per cent of the total government healthcare spending. The per-capita healthcare spending in the UAE was at $1,569 in 2013, the second highest in the region, after Qatar.

Increased investment in specialised care centres and day surgery centres are also on the cards, a senior Ministry of Health official told The National last week.

“The governments in the region have been funding a lot of their population on going overseas for advanced medical treatment because of a lack of facilities in the region,” Mr Vig said.

“Once they build the infrastructure here, they can treat them in their country, which would reduce the expenditure quite significantly.”

Speaking on the sidelines of Arab Health exhibition in Dubai last month, a DHA official told The National that ambulatory care, home care, long-term stay and day-surgery centres would be the focus of public-private partnerships.

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