Health: Universal care

A number of healthcare centres are coming up across the country to offer best-in class facilities


Oman’s ambitious plans to build a major medical city in northern region as part of creating state-of-the-art tertiary facilities close to the most populated region is gathering momentum. The Higher Council for Planning (SCP) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Oman Investment Fund (OIF) to develop the medical city, which is the most important project in healthcare field during the ninth five-year plan period.

The proposed medical city, which is coming up in a large area of five million square metres in Barka, will have a gamut of world-class specialties with a total bed strength of 1,200. The complex will have five highly-specialised tertiary hospitals, besides diagnostic centres to meet the growing needs of the country’s four million plus population. The planned centres include an organ transplant centre, a rehabilitation centre, a pediatric hospital, a general hospital, an ENT hospital and training and research centres.

The medical city, which will be established with a capital expenditure of over $1 billion, also plans to allocate separate areas for private sector investment for additional hospitals, clinics, shopping centres, hotels, residential complex and recreational centres. Further, the Ministry of Health is building five new hospitals in different regions of the country to meet demand for medical treatment for a growing population. The new hospitals are coming up in governorates of Musandam, North Batinah, North Al Sharqiyah and South Batinah. The proposed facilities in these regional hospitals include accident and emergency department, medical lab, radiology department, paediatric ICU and outpatient clinic.

Private initiatives

Although government facilities are still the backbone of the country’s large healthcare network, now the private sector is emerging as a major force in developing healthcare facilities. Oman government is also encouraging private healthcare facilities in an apparent move to cut budgetary expenditure on healthcare. A significant development on this front is the ongoing plans of a private group to develop an international health city in Salalah. The Saudi-based Apex Medical Group and its affiliate companies, the promoters of International Medical City (IMC) in Salalah, is proceeding with its plans to set up the Mena region’s first transplant and rehabilitation centre of excellence.

The first phase of International Medical City (IMC), the $1 billion-healthcare city, is expected to open for patients towards the end of 2016 or early 2017. The first phase will have a healthcare complex, which will have a 530-bed tertiary care multi-specialty hospital and three centres of excellence.

The three medical centres of excellences are for organ transplant and dialysis, diagnostics and rehabilitation. The organ centre will offer transplant facility for liver, kidney and pancreas. Apart from a healthcare complex, the landmark project, which is coming up in an area of 87,000 square meters of land, will have three major clusters to be developed in the second and third phases, respectively.

In the second phase, IMC has plans for a healthcare resort, which will have a four-star medical hotel to cater to the needs of the patients. And in the third phase, it will have an education complex, which will have a medical college, a nursing college and research and development centres. Several private developers are set to open hospitals and medical facilities over the next five years across the country, including Muscat, Duqm, Salalah and Sohar.

In a major move, Shifa Al Jazeera, a well-established hospital chain in the Gulf region, is planning to open its first premium polyclinic in Al Khuwair and a hospital in Ruwi this year. Further, a new premium hospital with 200 beds is planned in Al Khoud, which will open its doors for patients in 2017.

The Saudi-based hospital chain said its Ruwi hospital with 140 beds is aiming at making healthcare accessible to the common man, while Al Khuwair Polyclinic is for premium customers. Besides, the group plans to open ten premium polyclinics called Badar Al Thamam polyclinic, in a tie-up with Badar Al Thamam group. These polyclinics, which are scheduled for opening in 2017, are planned in Amerat, Al Ghubra, Mabela, Sur, Ibra, Buraimi, Sohar, Falaj, Saham and Nizwa.  All these healthcare centres will cater to the needs of more than 10,000 patients across the country. The group is investing RO26 million for building two hospitals and one polyclinic, while the capital expenditure for building ten polyclinics will be around RO12 million.

Oman has around 67 hospitals, which have a total bed capacity of 6,322. Of these hospitals, 49 are run by the Ministry of Health, five by other ministries, and 13 are run by the private sector. Also, the country has around 1,345 health centres run by the Ministry of Health, while another 49 primary health centres are run by other ministries and organisations. Also, as many as 1,093 polyclinics are run by the private sector.

The progress made in the healthcare field helped the country to be in the league of well-developed nations in terms of several parameters. For instance, the country has achieved tremendous progress in controlling communicable diseases, which, in turn, helped to achieve an increase in life expectancy as well.

Now, the health ministry is contemplating formation of a high-powered ‘health council’ to regulate the healthcare sector in an effective manner. The council, similar to the education council, is for regulating all entities involved in providing healthcare, which include both ministry and private hospitals. This is expected to bring in new regulations in line with the world-class facilities provided by developed countries.

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