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Does the GCC have what it takes to become a global healthcare hub?

With an estimated $65bn worth of healthcare projects currently underway in the GCC, there are plenty of fresh faces looking to make names for themselves within the sector. James Morgan reports

Growing vitality: Does the GCC region have what it takes to establish itself as an international healthcare hub?
Growing vitality: Does the GCC region have what it takes to establish itself as an international healthcare hub?

Healthcare is big business in the GCC. More than 50 million people reside in the region, and expats account for approximately half of this number. As such, in addition to providing a vital public amenity to local denizens, the medical sector represents a lucrative growth market for Gulf countries.

Within this context, it should come as no surprise to learn that medical-related construction activities are booming in the GCC at present. BNC Network estimates that more than 700 healthcare construction projects, with an estimated combined value of $65bn, are currently active in the region.

As one might imagine, such healthcare-related opportunities in the Gulf have not gone unnoticed by players new to the market, both sectorally and geographically. Numerous developers, contractors, consultants, and suppliers have been manoeuvring themselves in a bid to grab a slice of the action.

For example, KCH Healthcare – a partnership between Ashmore Group, Al Tayer Group, and KCH London – is currently developing King’s College Hospital Dubai (KCH Dubai), its flagship foray within the emirate’s healthcare sector (lead image). Located in Dubai Hills Estate, Phase 1 of the $200m (AED734m), 100-bed facility is due to complete in August 2018, and open to the public at the start of the following year.

Shapoorji Pallonji was awarded the main contract for the initial phase in December 2016, and construction began in January 2017. KCH Dubai was designed by Perkins+Will, the project’s lead consultant and design custodian. Faithful+Gould was enlisted as the project management consultant, and WME Consultants was appointed as the engineering consultant.

Determined to make the largest possible impact, KCH Healthcare is simultaneously developing a pair of $30m (AED110m) clinics in Dubai to supplement its hospital megaproject. The first, King’s College Hospital London Medical Centre, is situated on Jumeirah Beach Road in Umm Suqeim. With 25 examination rooms, plus dental facilities, the clinic was handed over in April 2017 by main contractor, Al Tayer Stocks.

Commenting on the project, Kevin Duffy, construction manager at KCH Healthcare, told Construction Week: “Construction and fit-out works are now complete. We’re training staff at the moment, and we intend to open to the public in September [2017].”

In Dubai Marina, Duffy and his colleagues are planning to commence construction of a similar facility in October 2017. The clinic, which is currently in its design phase, is scheduled to open to the public in April next year, eight months ahead of KCH Dubai.

And the firm’s regional development ambitions do not end there. As part of Phase 2 of KCH Dubai, KCH Healthcare intends to conduct an almost twofold expansion of the hospital, increasing its capacity to 180 beds.

“Phase 2 will include the addition of 80 beds, plus [supplementary] diagnostic centres,” said Duffy. “We have a preliminary timeline [for the expansion]: development will most likely begin between now and 2020.

“I’m talking about the commencement of construction activities, not completion,” he continued. “[We expect] to commence the expansion in either 2019 or 2020, depending on the success of the initial facility.”

Duffy revealed that KCH Healthcare is also planning to build its first two Gulf hospitals outside of the Emirates, with both facilities in the early stages of development. He explained: “We are considering the development of other KCH facilities outside of the UAE, but I wouldn’t want to be more specific than [to say they that they are in] the GCC. [These are] two fairly major hospital developments, [which are] in the early stages of development. Construction hasn’t started; they’re still in their feasibility and post-feasibility stages.”

Encouragingly, it’s not only developers that are making hay while the sun shines. Certain GCC contractors are also growing their footprints within the medical segment.

Established in 2004 by Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs Faisal Bouzo and Tarek Al Ajlani, Construction & Planning Co (C&P) has enjoyed an excellent year in the kingdom’s healthcare market, having been selected as the main construction partner for Anfas Medical Care’s (AMC) $1.3bn (SAR5bn) hospital and medical cities development programme.

The first facility, which will be located in Riyadh, boasts a built-up area of 27,000m2, and is due to complete in Q1 2018. C&P is currently working on the $107m (SAR400m) contract for Phase 1 of the programme, and expects to complete the remainder of the works during the coming five years. Unsurprisingly, C&P now hopes to capitalise on this momentum by pursuing additional contracts within the kingdom’s healthcare sector.

“As part of its current agenda, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is working to increase private sector involvement within the field of public healthcare,” Bouzo told Construction Week. “As such, C&P is working in line with Saudi Vision 2030 to create total solutions for the healthcare sector, which will include facilities management (FM) and build-operate-transfer (BOT) capabilities.

“We will achieve this by intensifying our focus on associated projects, partnering with global operators and suppliers within the healthcare industry,” he added.

Consultants have also been making headway within the GCC’s healthcare segment. Take for instance the joint venture (JV) between SSH and Studio Altieri, which was appointed as the main design consultancy for Kuwait New Maternity Hospital (KNMH) in March 2017. The joint entity will work in conjunction with design-and-build (D&B) contractor Impresa Pizzarotti to deliver the $817m (KWD250m) contract within a 54-month timeframe.

One month earlier, Kuwait’s Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Public Works (MPW) appointed SSH to conduct the study and design for a 792-bed paediatric hospital within Al Sabah Specialty Medical Area. The firm is undertaking the project in association with HKS Architects and WSP.

Elsewhere in the GCC, Spain-headquartered healthcare and medical group, Asisa, announced plans to establish a $62.3m (OMR24m) hospital in Oman in March 2017. The 70-bed private facility is being developed in Muscat in collaboration with Oman & Emirates Investment Holding (OEIHC) and Al Khonji Holding.

This year in the UAE, Ahalia Medical Group signed an agreement to open a 100-bed hospital in Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC); Emrill inked a three-year integrated facilities management (IFM) deal with Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC); and Rove Hotels opened its third DHCC property.

Despite wider market challenges, levels of construction-related activity within the GCC’s medical sector show no signs of abating. Not only are such projects providing a welcome shot in the arm for our industry today, but they could also offer the fundamentals necessary for the region to cement its position as a global healthcare hub in the longer term.

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