Risk identification is very important stage in any project risk management plan. It involves the recognition, filtering and ranking of potential risk/uncertainty events that may take place during the project life cycle. In the United Arab Emirates, where rapid development is taking place, many projects including healthcare facilities have failed to achieve their financial goals. Several risk factors affecting the preliminary and design stages are likely to be neglected causing consequential changes during these stages. The main objective of this research project is to identify and rate risk factors/events that are expected to take place during master planning, pre-design and design stages of healthcare projects and lead to variation in the client's cost from its initial estimate. The study is guided by a comprehensive literature review and interview sessions as well as a questionnaire survey to senior engineers, personnel from the public sector and industrial experts involved in the lifecycle of UAE healthcare projects. Many factors combine to create the situation where UAE public healthcare projects suffer from cost overruns. Design changes by client turned out to be the most significant factor for all respondents, followed by slow process of government approvals. The other important factors include: lack of design experts and lack of guidance from client.