Healthcare mantra

Once it is ready and operational, the new mega healthcare hub in Barka, will completely transform the face of healthcare in Oman


An important development in the healthcare sector in Oman now is the plan to build a state-of-the-art mega tertiary healthcare facility and medical education hub in Barka. The prestigious medical city – the Sultan Qaboos Medical City – will be developed in public-private-partnership and will come up in an area of five million square meters. The healthcare facility will have several world-class speciality hospitals with 1,200 beds. The Medical City project, which will be ready by 2021, will help the government save costs and position Oman as a hub for medical research and development.

Also, the proposed Medical City Investment Fund will channelise billions of dollars from private sector for building the mega hospital complex and associated facilities in Barka. The complex will have five highly-specialised tertiary hospitals, besides diagnostic centres to meet the growing needs of the country’s growing population. The planned specialised hospitals include an organ transplant centre, a rehabilitation centre, a pediatric hospital, a general hospital, an ENT hospital and training and research centres.

Separate Areas
The medical city, which will have a capital expenditure of more than $1 billion, also plans to allocate separate areas for private sector investment for additional hospitals, clinics, shopping centres, hotels, residential complex and recreational centres. On completion, it will ensure availability of quality healthcare services to most people in the country. It will also facilitate education and training within the country, thereby cutting down on the expenditure incurred on educating students abroad. The proposed medical city is part of the government’s long-term strategy called Health Vision 2050. Apart from a major medical city, several hospitals and polyclinics are being developed by the private sector, which include foreign hospital chains. Since the government is facing budget constraints, the private entrepreneurs, including foreign investors, will be encouraged to invest in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics, as well as commercial and retail developments, including residential blocks, hotels, and shopping malls, besides facilities for recreation and leisure.

According to a study conducted by Alpen Capital, the healthcare expenditure in Oman stood at $3.2 billion in 2017 and it is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CARG) of 9.1 per cent to $4.9 billion in 2022. This is attributable to rapidly rising population, plans to roll-out of mandatory insurance in the near future and rising cost of healthcare. Further, treatment of non-communicable diseases and preventive care measures are accounting for a large portion of the healthcare expenditure.

To accommodate the growing base of patients, the bed requirement in Oman is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 3.2 per cent through 2022, translating into a demand for more than 1,100 new beds to reach a capacity of 7,937 beds. In the past couple of decades, Oman has witnessed both a demographic and an epidemiological transition. The population of Oman is aging and the disease profile is showing a predominance of non-communicable diseases and injuries. Such a transition, together with worldwide advances in technology, has necessitated revising the health system.


Health Vision 2050

According to the Health Vision 2050, the healthcare system in the Sultanate consists of three integrated levels namely the primary, the secondary and the tertiary level. The primary healthcare level is the effective and high quality level provided by the primary health centres, polyclinics and hospitals that cover all areas in the Sultanate. The secondary healthcare level is provided by the referral hospitals in the governorates, as well as the hospitals in the wilayats.

The tertiary healthcare level is the high-tech specialised services provided by major hospitals like the Royal, Khoula, Al Nahda and Al Masarah hospitals. The new hospitals, medical centres, and clinics in the pipeline are expected to play a major role in achieving Oman’s Health Vision 2050 that aims to support the government’s goal of providing an equitable and efficient healthcare system. According to the latest statistics, the Sultanate has 1,124 private healthcare facilities, including 19 hospitals, 310 specialised clinics, 251 dental clinics, 48 Chinese clinics and 27 medical laboratories and seven diagnosis centres.

The progress made in the healthcare field has 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. Providing universal healthcare to a mixed population of Omanis and expatriates has been quite a challenge, considering the Sultanate’s unique topographical features and population distribution pattern. But today, even remote hamlets inhabited by a few have access to healthcare.

Private Sector

Of late, the authorities have decided to promote private sector in providing healthcare facilities in an apparent move to reduce the role of the state in providing healthcare. 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. A hi-tech hospital, which will have 100 beds, will be developed by two Omani business groups in collaboration with a leading Portuguese healthcare provider.

Al Afia Healthcare Development and Investment Company, a joint venture formed by Oman Brunei Investment Company, Suhail Bahwan Group and Idealmed Group, has earlier announced its hospital project —Idealmed Muscat Hospital.

The hospital, which will have specialised centres and round-the-clock service, is coming up in an area extending over 10,000 square metres at Al Ghubra and will start operation in 2020.  In another development, Al Madina Investment is planning a RO72 million-integrated health-care complex in Hail al Seeb, which will open this year.

Al Madina International Hospital project comprises a 225-bed tertiary-care hospital, 120-key three-star hotel apartments, 300 residential apartments, a fitness centre and a dedicated retail space within the premises. The Al Madina Group also plans to open a network of clinics, which will refer patients to the main healthcare facility in Muscat.

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