Medical tourism is no more limited to a few countries. It is growing into a “healthy sector” worldwide, netting billions of dollars every year. Studies show the sector is set to grow at 25 per cent annually in the coming decade. But what is amazing is that people from wealthier nations are now travelling to other countries for medical care that is too expensive or unavailable in their countries. The Sultanate is not an exemption to this. International players in the medical and healthcare industry are focusing their efforts to exploit the lucrative Omani healthcare market.
With its unique and strategic location on the southern tip of Arabian Peninsula, Oman is one of the most attractive travel destinations in the Gulf region. It is a country that combines luxurious comfort and safety amidst rugged mountains, panoramic beaches and striking desert escapes.
Oman has been ranked 35th on the global Medical Tourism Index (MTI) for its expanded access to health care and consumer experience. It has been placed seventh and fifth among Arab nations for its overall high performance and country environment dimension, respectively.
The ranking for its medical tourism industry and the facility and service quality dimensions are both in eighth position in the region.
The MTI is a worldwide reference point unveiled by International Healthcare Research Center (IHRC), which considers destination environment, medical tourism and quality of services and facilities for ranking.
Under the government’s Health Vision 2050, much more is being done, including establishment of 10,000 health centres, to meet increasing demand arising from the country’s growing population and the expanded geographical dimensions of Oman.
The ministries of health and tourism are joining hands in a big way along with other stakeholders to achieve greater results and increase medical tourism business in the country. “The Medical City project in the Sultanate is a first step in the direction of developing a hub for medical tourism,” Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Oman’s Minister of Health.
The Medical City, spread over an area of five million sqm in Barka, will offer various medical services in specialised fields and includes a general hospital, a children’s hospital, a transplant hospital, rehabilitation centre, head and neck hospital, college of health sciences and a research centre and a laboratory.
As per the initial plans, the Medical City will also include a trauma hospital, a rehabilitation centre and an imaging centre. There will also be a convention centre and a college for neuro-sciences and other sciences among other facilities.
The other is the International Medical City in Salalah, southern Oman. It covers 866,000 square metres and will include a health care complex, a health care resort and educational facilities. Within the complex will be a 530-bed multi-speciality hospital. According to Dr Waleed bin Khalid al Zadjali, President of Oman Medical Association, efforts to make Oman a healthcare delivery destination are receiving a big push with the formation of a new partnership in this regard.
“Oman needs to have more investments and infrastructure to expand access to healthcare and consumer experience,” he told Observer in a recent interview.
The number of visitors coming to the Sultanate is increasing year after year.
Medical tourism is one alternative that patients pursue typically to get cheaper or more advanced treatments not offered in their home country, he said.
The government is rehabilitating its historic venues and developing better infrastructure around them to increase its appeal. Oman faces an increasing demand for healthcare, both for preventative and interventional services.
“More efforts are required to boost the quality and facilities in hospitals to get international accreditations at par with other countries that are jostling to offer high quality healthcare at a good price,” he said.
Starcare Group announced in July last that it will open a 100-bed hospital in Barka. The largest private hospital in the country will initially have 100 beds and offer 25 specialities. Starcare will also launch its brand of Cuddles Birthing Centre in Barka to offer special care to women and children.
Idealmed Group, a leading player in the global healthcare industry, announced in the beginning of this year that its joint venture firm, Al Afia Healthcare Development and Investment Company, is set to start work on a six-storey hospital project in Oman.