UAE residents spurn medical hot-spot Thailand with home facilities among best in world

Bangkok // While oil prices are now on an upward trajectory the consequences of the recent plunge reach well beyond the petrochemicals industry.

The UAE economy is sufficiently robust to survive what seems to be a temporary downturn but the repercussions have been serious for a previously thriving industry in a country nearly 5,000 kilometre away.

Since the start of 2015, stocks in Thai hospitals have been on the slide. Bumrungrad Hospital, which is particularly popular with medical tourists from the Middle East, has seen its share price fall from Dh22 at the beginning of the year to Dh19 last week.

That came after Thailand’s healthcare shares surged by more than 800 per cent over the previous seven years according to Bloomberg. But the slump in oil prices has coincided with a 20 per cent drop in the number of patients from the UAE seeking treatment at Bumrungrad in the first quarter of 2015, a significant fall from five years previously.

According to a World Health Organisation study in 2010, the highest numbers of medical tourists who visited one of the five hospitals it surveyed in Thailand came from the UAE (21,568), followed by Bangladesh (8,443), the US (7,855) and Myanmar (7568).

Kasem Prunratanamala is the head of research at CIMB Securities in Bangkok and he sees a direct correlation between the recent fall in oil prices and a reduction in the numbers of patients travelling from the UAE to Bumrungrad.