With $50.5bn-worth of healthcare-related projects planned or under way, the Middle East is experiencing a boom in hospital and clinic construction. Of this figure, some 60 per cent are already under execution, while 31 per cent are in the design or tender phase, according to regional projects tracker MEED Projects.

Saudi Arabia is aiming to achieve a hospital beds-to-population ratio of 3.5 beds per 1,000 people by 2014

The increased investment in hospital and clinic building comes as governments look to improve local service delivery and roll out compulsory health insurance schemes. Traditionally, Gulf citizens travelled abroad for much of their treatment. The majority of construction activity is concentrated in the GCC, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE having the highest value of schemes under execution. Beyond the GCC, Iraq is the busiest market.

Medical cities

At the heart of Saudi Arabia’s healthcare capital spending strategy is the construction of five medical cities around the kingdom, at a cost of SR16bn ($4.3bn). These include the $1.2bn King Khalid Medical City in Dammam, which will offer a 1,500 single-patient-room academic medical centre, a 500-bed private community hospital, medical schools and a hotel. Earlier this year, contractors submitted prequalification entries for the contract to build the medical city.

The largest project planned in Oman is the $1.8bn Sultan Qaboos Medical City, covering 5 million square metres

The other cities comprise the $1.1bn King Faisal Medical City, which will serve the Southern Province and have a 1,350-bed capacity; the Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Medical City with 1,000 beds serving the northern region; and the King Abdullah Medical City in Mecca, which will comprise three hospitals and 10 medical centres with a total of 1,350 beds. The estimated $1bn project will include hospital buildings, research centres, administration buildings and a housing community with a total built-up area of nearly 1 million square metres. A new 500-bed medical city will also be built in Al-Jouf and the existing King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh is planned to be expanded. The client for the schemes is the Health Ministry.

The kingdom is aiming to achieve a hospital beds-to-population ratio of 3.5 beds per 1,000 people by 2014, which will require adding another 41,000 beds. A further 19 medical complexes, including hospitals and three health facilities for mentally disabled and autistic children, are being planned.

Meanwhile, in Kuwait, hospital construction activity is being led by both the Public Works Ministry and the Health Ministry. The country’s healthcare sector suffered from underinvestment in the preceding two decades, but the ministries have made good progress in the past couple of years in launching hospital projects.

The Health Ministry is currently seeking bids for a contract worth an estimated $1bn to expand the Farwaniya hospital. The work involves building a new 955-bed annex that will offer 30 emergency rooms and 27 operating rooms. The scheme also includes the construction of laboratories, a pharmacy and a car park for 1,500 vehicles. About 26 firms have been prequalified to bid on the project, with the deadline set for 12 November.

Kuwait ramp-up

The Farwaniya scheme is part of the ministry’s plan to expand nine hospitals in Kuwait, adding about 5,000 beds. Its other schemes include the expansion of the Al-Adan, Jahra and Al-Sabah hospitals. The Al-Adan project involves building a 637-bed annex for women and children, a new surgical building with 21 operating rooms and a new wing for medical and physical therapy. The Jahra scheme will see a 1,157-bed hospital built adjacent to the existing Jahra hospital. An expansion of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in the Al-Asimah governorate was awarded this year.

The Public Works Ministry, meanwhile, is evaluating bids for contracts to build three facilities: a new paediatric hospital; the IBN SINA hospital; and a 600-bed maternity hospital in the Al-Sabah district. The authority is already overseeing the construction of the $1.1bn Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah Hospital in Surra, a district in Kuwait City.

In the UAE, the most active client is Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), whose flagship scheme is the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City on Abu Dhabi Island. The planned 838-bed hospital will cover a total area of 278,709 square metres, and will combine general hospital facilities with a trauma centre and women’s and paediatric centres. The central area of the proposed medical campus will house restaurants, and retail and education spaces. Construction work on the scheme is scheduled to start this year and bids are currently being evaluated.

Seha is also preparing to award the deal to build a new hospital in Al-Ain. The project involves building a 688-bed hospital covering 358,000 sq m, with underground parking for 1,500 cars. The design has been prepared by a joint venture of Switzerland’s ICME Healthcare and Germany’s Faust Consult Architects & Engineers and Obermeyer Engineering Consulting. Seha’s other schemes include a medical rehabilitation centre and several ambulatory clinics.

Oman activity

Oman is also preparing to step up its hospital building activity. In August, the Health Ministry issued a tender for the design and construction of four general hospitals at Al-Najat, Sumail, Al-Falah and Khasab. The ministry is also seeking bids for the engineering design and supervision of a 300-bed general hospital in Suwaiq.

The largest project planned in the sultanate is the $1.8bn Sultan Qaboos Medical City to be built in the northern coastal region of Batinah, the most populated area after Muscat. Covering 5 million sq m, the complex will house a general hospital, an organ transplant unit, specialist hospitals for children and head and neck medicine, and a rehabilitation centre. Plans for the medical city were announced in January, with the project management tender expected to be issued this year.

In numbers

$50.5bn: Total value of healthcare-related projects planned or under way in the Middle East

$4.3bn: Combined value of the five medical city projects planned in Saudi Arabia

Source: MEED Projects