Largest Healthcare free zone with further expansion plans

By: Editor In Chief
Thu 22 January,2015

Marwan Abedin  copy
Marwan Abedin Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Healthcare City

Filed Under: Healthcare

Marwan Abedin is the Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and serves as Executive Director and member of the Board of Directors of Dubai Healthcare City Authority, the legislative body of the free zone.


With expansion plans underway to cover 19 million square feet of wellness concepts in Phase 2, DHCC is recognized as the world’s largest healthcare free zone. The current operational Phase 1, dedicated to healthcare and medical education, covers 4.1 million square feet.


The Emirati CEO drives DHCC’s vision to position itself as an internationally-recognized location of choice for quality healthcare, wellness, and medical education and research.


He is responsible for spearheading expansion, contributing to the development of the health sector and implementing the Dubai government’s medical tourism initiative.


Prior to his appointment in September 2012 by the Chairperson of Dubai Healthcare City Authority Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Marwan held key positions in the UAE finance industry for more than 15 years.


Over the course of his career, he was the CEO of the Dubai Financial Support Fund, an entity formed under Royal Decree, leading operations in collaboration with its Board of Directors and the Supreme Fiscal Committee. He was the Director of Debt Management at the Department of Finance – Government of Dubai, responsible for treasury and debt issues of public sector entities and liaising with the government’s Legal Affairs Department.


In March 2012, he was nominated as Member of the Board of Directors of global property developer Emaar Properties PJSC by the Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation, a not-for-profit organization under Royal Decree, and Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (Amaf), a Dubai government department responsible for the legal supervision over the Awqaf, its care and investment, as well as the wellbeing of minors.


Marwan serves as committee member of the Bretton Woods Committee, the US-based nonpartisan network of prominent global citizens in Washington DC, and of the Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) - Middle East, the leading body for treasury and finance professionals. He is also a member of the Economic Club of New York, the premier public forum in the US.


He was the first UAE national to qualify as the General Securities Registered Representative (Series 7) by largest independent securities regulator in the US - the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), previously the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD).


Marwan has earned a Bachelor of Economics and Political Science from Wake Forest University, North Carolina, US. He enjoys photography and is an aspiring art collector.


As one of the top medical tourism centres and most developed healthcare markets of the Middle East, the UAE’s health market is expected to reach $8 billion by 2015 of which $6 billion will be outpatient and $2Billion.


Since 2013 projects for a number of specialist hospitals have started across the UAE and are expected to complete by 2016, worth nearly AED 1billion (USD 272million). In addition, a dedicated 200 bed psychiatric hospital for patients in Dubai and the northern emirates will also be built at a cost of around AED 600million (USD 163million). The number of hospital beds in the UAE is estimated to reach 10,562 in 2015 from 9,574 in 2010.


The Dubai Healthcare City is home to more than 130 medical facilities including hospitals, outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with more than 4,500 licensed professionals.


Located in the heart of Dubai, DHCC comprises two phases. Phase 1, dedicated to healthcare and medical education, covers 4.1 million square feet, and Phase 2, which is dedicated to wellness, will cover 19 million square feet. Development in Phase 2 is underway.


Launched in 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) is a free zone mandated to meet the demand for high-quality, patient-centered healthcare.


Dubai has gone a long way in terms of the development that has taken place in the Emirate’s Health sector. How would you describe its evolution over the last few years?


I believe for a healthcare sector to survive and grow it needs integral building blocks from hard and soft infrastructure to policy and regulation. The growth of Dubai Healthcare City, the largest healthcare free zone in the world, validates how these building blocks have spearheaded progress.  


To explain, I would like to use the analogy of the five P’s in healthcare development.


Patients - A formidable challenge for Dubai and the UAE is to reverse the outbound medical tourism trend. DHCC is improving healthcare provision for residents and overseas patients. As of December 2014, 1.2 million patient visits were recorded; 15% of patients were medical tourists. We hope to push this figure higher through our strategic partnerships and collaborations with stakeholders in the government.


People - We need to address the shortage of local healthcare talent. Towards education and research, our dedicated academic complex the Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center is building capacity and advancing medical education in the region. For example, the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Center within MBR-AMC trained more than 1,400 multidisciplinary healthcare professionals in 2014. We also in 2014 announced the establishment of the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, which will offer undergraduate and postgraduate programs; its dental college is already operational, and its College of Medicine is expected to be open for application in September 2015.


Product – Healthcare services can be compared to a product. To be competitive, it must stay relevant to meet market demands. In other words, innovation to improve healthcare delivery; we achieve this through strategic partnerships.


Price – We expect the phased implementation of mandatory health insurance in Dubai and the regulation of healthcare insurance premiums to ensure market stability and sustainability.


Policy – When healthcare is no longer confined to geographical borders, a healthcare system has to meet the challenges of policy and regulation. Factors of accreditation, medical visas, and follow-up care, among others are all crucial.


Overall, we speak of DHCC’s development through phase 1 which is home to over 130 medical facilities including hospitals, medical centers and diagnostic laboratories, and more than 180 non-clinical facilities; and through our expansion into wellness through Phase 2, currently under development, will bring preventative care and wellness concepts to the fore.


Progress for DHCC is based both on strategic partnerships and stringent regulations.


What is the current capacity at DHCC and what potential for growth do you still have?


From a specialty perspective, DHCC has 90 plus specialties. We recognize capacity gaps such as oncology. Towards this, our business partner Mediclinic City Hospital will complement measures to increase capacity in cancer care and provide the latest diagnostic technology. The expansion will see therapeutic modalities for all types of cancer introduced.


Healthcare expansion is in the planning stages. To name a few upcoming projects: 

Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Center expansion - 170 beds. Medanta Hospital - 250 beds. Mohammed Bin Rashid University Hospital (MBR-UH) - 400 beds


In tandem, the number of healthcare professionals is on the rise. As of 2014, we licensed more than 4,500 professionals. In terms of patient visits, we crossed 1.2 million patient visits. We are also seeing increased interest from wellness providers to set up in Phase 2.


DHCC is investing heavily in its education offering with an ultimate goal to provide medical education and CPD programs across the spectrum of healthcare profession. What are some of your initiatives in this regard?


The establishment of the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBR-UMHS) is in line with Dubai Healthcare City Authority’s strategy to develop sustainable medical capabilities in the UAE and the region. Through this world-class facility, Dubai Healthcare City aims to address the need for quality medical education closer to home.


The MBR-UMHS has under its umbrella the College of Dental Medicine, which is already operational. The College offers six postgraduate programmes, accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR), in collaboration with the UK-based Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSE).


The College of Medicine for undergraduate medical students will open for admissions in September 2015.


Over the next five to seven years, we aim phased additions of colleges in different specialties, including Allied Health Sciences, Nursing, Midwifery, Public Health and Pharmacy.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center is DHCC’s dedicated academic complex. It has collaborations with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSE), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and American Heart Association, among other healthcare and academic institutions.


In addition to the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, it is home to Al Maktoum Medical Library, and the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Medical Simulation Center, which has high-fidelity patient simulators to help health professionals continue to develop their technical and non-technical skills.


The Simulation Center (KHMSC) is the first state-of-the-art comprehensive training facility in the region. In 2014, 2,120 multidisciplinary healthcare professionals were trained from January to December, bringing the total number of trainees to 2,908 since its opening in November 2012.


In 2014, DHCC signed 22 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Siemens, Cambridge University Hospital, GE Healthcare, City University of London, UAE Ministry of Health, Higher Colleges of Technology, and Dubai Medical College for Girls, Julphar and Higher Colleges of Technology. The MoUs further medical education and technical training.


How well is Dubai regarded in the region in terms of the quality of healthcare services offered?


Dubai is undoubtedly a regional healthcare leader that caters to local and foreign patients alike.


The medical tourism sector in Dubai is growing steadily reaching US$ 1.69 billion in 2013 from US$ 1.58 billion in 2012. (Alpen Capital).

Dubai has all the elements that patients traveling from abroad seek – skilled and specialized physicians, world-class infrastructure, stringent regulatory environment, ease of travel and hospitality and entertainment options.


A Dubai Healthcare City survey last year - representing a six-month period beginning January, showed that 48 per cent medical tourists come primarily from the GCC; 32 per cent from the wider Arab World; 26 per cent from Eastern and Western Europe; and 23 per cent from Asia. The three most popular procedures were first, infertility treatments, second, cosmetic treatments, and third, dental.


In the same survey, DHCC-based physicians reported that 80 per cent of medical tourists come to Dubai for quality of care; 61 per cent for the city’s experienced physicians, while 48 per cent highlighted the availability of specialist treatments.


What would you say are the challenges ahead for Dubai’s healthcare sector?


The rapid growth of the medical sector comes with a significant change in its dynamics.


Innovation, technology and digitalization are driving the healthcare sector. To stay relevant on a global scale, we must keep up with the latest developments and technique to adapt quickly and meet patient demands.


Local talent development is another challenge that we will continue to tackle in 2015 and beyond. It is the link between the sector’s growth and the best healthcare delivery and should be a priority for all industry stakeholders.


Regulation is also an important area of focus as we thrive to develop in the healthcare sector in a sustainable manner and one that appeals to international investors, partners, physicians and patients.






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