She was just three-years-old prancing about the kitchen, when, for a few seconds, her life stood terribly still.
Ghadeer Faisal Ebrahim Al Titi had slipped on a damp floor as her older sister finished cooking French fries, her hand swiping the hot pan and toppling boiling oil across her chest. Disfigured, her torso and chest reflecting third-degree burns, she has been in and out of hospitals since.
Now 17, the Palestinian teenager from Al Aaroub Camp in Hebron is all smiles. After all, Ebrahim Al Titi can now wear a blouse like any of her friends as she recovers from a complicated reconstructive surgery performed at Dubai Health Care City.
Medical tourism patients like Ebrahim Al Titi, who have no choice but to remain close to their home, are arriving in large numbers in Dubai where they are finding safety, accessibility, experienced physicians and exclusive treatments at accredited facilities.
I think this surgery is awesome and has worked so well for me, EbrahimAl Titi told Gulf News, thanking the surgeons at Dubai Health Care City, the volunteers and sponsors at the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund for the cost-free procedures and treatments. I would love to grow up to be a doctor to help people in need. I hope to continue my studies when I am through with the next round of surgery next year.
Perhaps, the cheerful teenager will someday return the favor to another medical tourism patient, like her. Perhaps, she may play a role along with other upbeat healthcare professionals who are transforming Dubai into a favored destination for not only Middle East health and wellness seekers, but medical tourism patients from across the globe.
MTA Chapter Program Emerges
Already one of the most popular cities in the world to visit MasterCard ranks Dubai seventh behind such travel luminaries like Paris, London, and Bangkok the Las Vegas of the Middle East can now boast the fortunes of hosting a Medical Tourism Association Chapter program.
A formal agreement between the non-profit trade association headquartered in the United States and Dubai Health Care City — home to two hospitals, more than 120 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories, and 4,000 licensed professionals — was signed at Dubai Health Authority during the Arabian Travel Market, April 30, 2014, in Dubai.
In the space of a single generation, Dubai has grown from a sleepy Gulf port in the desert to become a crossroad of international commerce, said Renée-Marie Stephano, President of the Medical Tourism Association. A vibrant economy and robust population growth have created a need for vigorous measures and investment in healthcare services.
Stephano said the Medical Tourism Association will extend its resources to local, regional and international stakeholders and work together to strengthen existing initiatives, establish new opportunities and support and encourage leadership, training and improved care to market Dubai as a leading medical tourism destination.
The Dubai Health Authority has its eyes set on attracting 500,000 medical tourism patients a year and plans to build 22 hospitals, boosting the national economy by up to Dh2.6 billion by 2020. Achieving that ambitious goal would make Dubai a major center for medical tourism in time for when the United Arab Emirates territory hosts World Expo 2020.
Certification, Training Strategies
The Medical Tourism Association will work specifically with DHCC to provide strategic, operational and educational support to develop certificate and training programs for hospitals, patient specialists and medical tourism marketing professionals. Some of those players got a jump start on certification during a day-long education and training program, which the Medical Tourism Association conducted during the Arabian Travel Market, and later at a presentation on Medical Tourism in the Middle East, by MTA CEO Jonathan Edelheidt.
More than 2,700 medical tourism interests from 80 countries descended on the four-day Arabian Travel Market, which the Dubai Health Authority hopes will be a stepping stone for international markets including Taiwan, South Africa and South America to land firmly on.
Stephano said certification can communicate a specialized expertise and commitment to best practices to the tens of thousands of health, travel and tourism professionals who are predicted to converge on the United Arab Emirates in the next decade.
The Dubai Health Authority said 18 private and four public hospitals will be built in the next five years. Private hospitals will target patients from the Commonwealth of Independent States including Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and those in South Asia and Arabian Gulf nations.
We are working with all relevant stakeholders to streamline the medical tourism initiative for the emirate, said Essa Al Maidoor, DHA director-general, who discussed with Stephano cooperation related to training courses and upcoming conferences including the 7th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress, Sept. 20-24, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
Dubai is the world's leading destination for tourism and leisure and, since Dubai offers excellent healthcare facilities, medical tourism is an extension of the hospitality that Dubai is synonymous with.
Al Maidoor said developing a strategy that helps ensure the complete process from the time a patient visits Dubai through the discharge and follow-up will go a long way toward streamlining a steady flow of medical tourism travelers for treatments that include orthopedic and sports medicine, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, dental procedures, dermatology, preventive healthcare and skin care.
That's good news for patients like Saad Al Suaiti, who, in biting misery and desperate for solutions, arrived in Dubai on the seat of his pants. Imagining that he might someday leave the United Arab Emirates walking on air was a stretch, at the very least.
The 51-year-old Qatari national suffered severe pain in both legs that left him crippled to a wheelchair and with pinned hopes that a risky five-hour surgery at Dubai Health Care City could abate four years of misery.
Today, Al Sulaiti is back in Qatar, ecstatic to be walking with minimal assistance and looking forward to a life full of hope and void of despair; the spinal condition misdiagnosed in his home country now mending.
I can walk again, said Al Sulaiti, paying tribute to the surgeons and staff at the Dubai Bone and Joint Centre at Dubai Health Care City. I am grateful to the center's (DBJC) experience, tailored approach and professionalism. I was grateful to have my family with me in Dubai through the surgery and rehabilitation phase.