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Healthcare in the UAE: The best of emergency, maternity, surgery facilities

Shajar Khan /Dubai
Filed on December 21, 2020

(Alamy.com/ae)

In 2018, the UAE was ranked among the top 10 most efficient healthcare systems globally.


The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) oversees public and private healthcare in the UAE. The UAE has a high-end healthcare sector that offers quality services in both the public and private sectors. It has an extensive, government-funded healthcare system which is regulated at the Federal and state level. This has led to an increase in medical tourism over the past decade. In 2018, the UAE was ranked among the top 10 most efficient healthcare systems globally. 

For UAE nationals, public healthcare is free. Expats can gain access to public hospitals and clinics using a health card.

Among the leading healthcare facilities in the country is the Dubai Healthcare City, which is a large complex of medical buildings and institutions, which includes hospitals, clinics, teaching and research facilities, pharmacies and partnerships with international institutions.

Public Healthcare

Public medical facilities in the UAE offer a high standard of care. Expats require a health card to be treated at public hospitals. Some private hospitals do not deal with trauma, complex emergencies, and specified pathologies. 

There are four leading government hospitals in the Emirate: 

Dubai 

Rashid

Latifa

Hatta

What does the UAE public healthcare cover?

Public healthcare covers the following essential health needs:

Emergencies.

Maternity services.

Basic healthcare services which include general examinations, treatment services by general practitioners, specialists and consultants.

Laboratory services; radiology diagnostic services; physiotherapy; prescribed drugs and other medicines.

Preventive services include essential vaccinations and immunisations for children and newborns.

Services that are not covered by public healthcare:

Dental and gum examinations.

Hearing and vision aids.

Vision correction by surgery or laser.

 How does healthcare work in the UAE?

Essential benefit plan

Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) provides the same coverage as UAE public healthcare. Should your employer not provide healthcare insurance for you and your dependents, you can purchase a private healthcare plan or EBP. 

Primary care

There is no dedicated general practitioner (GP) surgeries in Dubai. For non-urgent medical care, it is advised to visit a doctor in a public or private hospital or medical centre. A family doctor will provide general outpatient consultations for adults, children and a wide range of other basic services; including vaccinations, gynaecology, and antenatal clinics.

Dental care

Dental care can be costly, which is the reason some expats prefer treatments done in their home countries to save on costs. 

Private Healthcare

There are more private healthcare facilities in the UAE than public facilities. The UAE has excellent public hospitals and medical centres; however, some expats prefer to use private healthcare.

Pharmacies

The UAE has many pharmacies which are located throughout the country, and most pharmacies are open 24-hours a day. 

Popular pharmacies in the UAE include: 

Al Manara Pharmacy 

Aster Pharmacy 

Life Pharmacy

BinSina Pharmacy

A variety of prescription drugs and medical supplies are available in the UAE. Upon travelling, it is advised that patients carry a notarised translated copy of the prescription as well as the original letter from the prescribing doctor explaining the medication requirements. Tranquillizers, anti-depressants and sleeping pills are heavily regulated in the UAE. 

Health risks

Many of the significant health risks in the UAE are related to dehydration and heatstroke. Sand and dusty conditions caused by desert winds and construction can aggravate symptoms for pre-existing respiratory conditions.

Emergency care

Public hospitals provide free emergency care, however, if you do not have a health card, you will be issued a provisional one when you arrive at the emergency department, as healthcare insurance is compulsory for all residents. Private facilities also provide emergency treatment; for many, it may be costly without comprehensive healthcare insurance.

The UAE is well equipped to handle medical emergencies. Expats can dial 999 for ambulance services. Alternatively, they can dial the number given by their healthcare insurance provider.

Healthcare system in the UAE:

The DHA introduced a law between 2014 and 2016 which mandates

healthcare insurance coverage for all Dubai residents. Companies must provide their employees with a healthcare insurance plan that includes a basic cover level. Companies are not required to pay the cost of healthcare insurance for their employees' dependents.

Expat workers are liable for healthcare insurance for family

members and domestic workers, including nannies, cooks and driver.

For more information on compulsory medical insurance, visit the  Insurance System for Advancing Healthcare in Dubai (ISAHD) website.

As of 2015, a fine of Dh500 will be issued for every uninsured month. It is important to note that residency visas cannot be issued without proof of valid health insurance. 

UAE healthcare facts

Dubai is known for its high standards of medical procedures and excellent facilities. Foreigners globally travel to the city for treatment, which is known as 'medical tourism'. In 2016, Dubai received 326,649 medical tourists. The most sought after medical and health specialities are orthopaedic, dermatology, and ophthalmology. Cosmetic, dental, and fertility treatments are also extremely popular in the region. In Abu Dhabi, an employer is required to provide healthcare insurance for employees and their dependents (three children under the age of 18 and one spouse). Healthcare insurance coverage for a fourth child is not covered by the employer and is the responsibility of the employee. Unlike Dubai and Abu Dhabi, employers based in the northern emirates of Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Umm Al-Quwain, are not liable for healthcare insurance for employees.

Healthcare cities in the UAE: 

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

Dubai Healthcare City.

Sharjah Healthcare City.

Healthcare costs in the UAE

The extent of coverage is often determined by the salary and designation of the employee. The type of policy determines the cost of medical services. 

Why is healthcare expensive in the UAE?

The UAE is known for its highly-trained physicians, modern medical equipment and innovative research as well. There are more private hospitals than public hospitals in the UAE. As per 2018 records, there are a total of 104 hospitals, which include 33 public facilities and 71 private facilities.

Most residents forgo visiting a general practitioner and instead see specialists; therefore, medical costs are increased as specialists run multiple tests and consultations.

The UAE health card:

A UAE health card is required to access the services provided in medical facilities run by the government. The card is available from the Dubai Health Authority and (DHA). Applications can be completed online or by visiting a medical centre. The health card provides primary healthcare coverage similar to what Emirati nationals receive through public healthcare. Expats who prefer visiting public hospitals and clinics are required to have a health card. It is recommended to apply for a health card even if you are covered by private health insurance as private policies may not cover all treatments and may be cost-effective to visit a government hospital or clinic.

UAE health card requirements:

Original Passport.

Original Emirates ID.

Healthcare insurance plans:

Healthcare insurance plans in the UAE are relatively standard when compared with countries in Europe or North America. There are four main types of healthcare insurance plans for individuals and families.

An individual plan: which is for a single person or family group looking for a comprehensive UAE medical insurance.

Family plan: this plan offers value with family discounts.

Group plans: significant discounts and extended benefits for policies with more than 20 members.

Traveller plans: for individuals and groups who travel to the

UAE frequently; these plans offer a high level of flexibility and can be tailored according to your travel itinerary.

Guidelines on giving birth in the UAE

Expats in Dubai must present a marriage certificate to give birth

in a hospital.

Health insurance: prenatal services are charged for in a government hospital 

The following documents are required upon giving birth in the UAE:

· A valid health card of the pregnant mother

· The original marriage certificate (a copy may be needed) 

· Original passports and copies of both husband and wife

· Residency visa and copies of both husband and wife

Expecting mothers should register with a hospital no later than the seventh month of pregnancy. You may choose to register with one of the many private clinics available in the Emirate. Packages of Dh2,500 or $680.61 include 12 visits which cover routine test costs. In the UAE, your OB-GYN is likely to be a female due to the UAE'S adherence to Islam. Unlike many hospitals globally, upon giving birth in the UAE, babies may stay in the same room with their mothers, and many private hospitals also allow partners to stay overnight after the birthing process. Home births are not allowed; babies must be birthed in a public or a private hospital. Babies who are born in public hospitals are automatically issued with an Arabic birth certificate. Babies who are born in private hospitals are issued with a birth certificate after parents apply to the Ministry of Health and Prevention or the health authority in their Emirate of residence.

Prenatal and post-natal care is on par with the world's most developed countries: the newborn (neonate) mortality rate has been reduced to 5.54 per 1,000 and infant mortality to 7 per 1,000. Maternal mortality rates have decreased to 0.01 for every 100,000.

Due to the success of the high standard of care within the UAE healthcare system, life expectancy in the UAE is 76.8 years, similar to those in Europe and North America. 

It is important to note that giving birth in the UAE does not grant citizenship. An expatriate child born in the UAE is considered a citizen if one of their parents is already a UAE national. Emirati citizens enjoy the benefits of free public healthcare and receive a substantial retirement fund provided through social security. 

Sponsoring a parent 

Expats who wish to sponsor their parents as dependents are required to approach a healthcare insurance company. If your parent is above the age of 60 and has pre-existing conditions; the lowest premium is estimated at Dh4,500, which includes: hospitalisation, inpatient care, outpatient services, and medicine limited at Dh150 000 yearly.

Required documentation: 

Your passport and visa copy.

Emirates ID copy.

A copy of your parent's passport.

Parent's medical reports.

Once your documentation is complete, the application is sent for approval to the insurance company's medical board. Once the approval is granted, and payment is made, the insurance cover will be issued.

Healthcare transformation in Abu Dhabi

Healthcare delivery in Abu Dhabi is transforming and updating the quality of services in the healthcare system. A charitable fund assists underinsured expatriates and to aid in financing more serious medical conditions such as cancer, dialysis, polytrauma, and disability.

The main objectives for the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi are to:

Improve the quality of care.

Improve standard and performance targets.

Ensuring all patients have access to a high standard of care with the power to choose healthcare services, thus promoting excellence through free-market competition.

Shift from the public to private providers safely and efficiently so that private provider's service healthcare needs, with the government's role, are restricted to developing and enforcing new, world-class healthcare standards.

Implement a new financing model.

The compulsory health insurance plan for private-sector employees came into effect across the country in 2008. The new system included a transparent reimbursement process, affordable access for all residents, and reliable funding for quality healthcare in Abu Dhabi. 

Healthcare transformation in Dubai

The Dubai Health Authority serves as the regulator and operator of Dubai's healthcare sector. Priorities for healthcare the sector in Dubai include retaining a high calibre of staff, strengthening initiatives around post-graduate healthcare education and continued investment in primary and specialised healthcare. Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) was launched in 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. DHCC has two hospitals, over 120 outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories with over 4,000 licensed professionals. The Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park was launched as part of Dubai's 2010 vision to establish a knowledge-based economy. It is the world's first free zone dedicated to life sciences.

UAE collaborations with US-based institutions:

· The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is in operation as a world-class speciality hospital and clinic.

· The Johns Hopkins Medical School manages healthcare systems in Abu Dhabi, including the 469-bed Tawam Hospital.

· The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has a partnership with the UAE government for breast cancer education.

· The Children's National Medical Center and the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi partnership has been credited for improving infant mortality rates in the UAE, developing a successful internship program with Emirati doctors and establishing the UAE as a destination regional pediatric care.

Development of healthcare services in the private sector will contribute to:

- Higher quality of healthcare service provision due to international competitiveness.

- Improving the customer experience and the overall perception of healthcare.

- Attracting highly-skilled healthcare professionals.

- Strengthening the healthcare investment climate.

- Generating more revenue.

The country's improved healthcare infrastructure, alongside its existing profile as a tourism hub, has led to the development of medical tourism within the GCC.

Healthcare systems

The UAE has about 40 public hospitals, compared with only 7 in 1970. The Ministry of Health has invested millions into expanding health facilities, hospitals, medical centres, and a trauma centre in the seven emirates.

Emirate of Abu Dhabi

A new comprehensive healthcare insurance programme, which was effective from January 2006, states that Abu Dhabi residents' costs will be shared between employers and employees. Before 2007, government-owned, the General Authority managed healthcare facilities for Health Services (GAHS). In 2007, this authority was restructured into: Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA is responsible for managing government-owned healthcare facilities in Abu Dhabi. Currently, SEHA manages 57 Primary Healthcare Centres, 13 Hospitals, 3 Maternal and Child Health Centers, 3 Specialized Dental Centers, one centre for Autism, and 5 Specialised Facilities like rehab, blood bank and herbal centre. 

Emirate of Dubai

Ministry of Health (MOH) is responsible for public and private healthcare. Facilities in the Emirates of Sharjah, Ajman and the Northern Emirates. Facilities in Dubai include; Al Baraha Hospital and Al Amal Psychiatric Hospital.

Different regulatory authorities administer public healthcare

services throughout the UAE: 

Abu Dhabi - The Ministry of Health and Prevention, Health

Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD).

Dubai - The Dubai Health Authority (DHA).The Emirate Health Authority (EHA).

Non-residents will have to pay higher fees for treatment at a hospital or clinic. However, these costs are subsidised, and the standard of care is increased at both public and private facilities.

Medical fitness test

For expats moving to the UAE, a medical examination is required. The test involves a blood test and a chest X-ray which screens for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Syphilis and Hepatitis B. All residents must undergo a blood test upon renewing their visa. The cost of a medical fitness test may vary depending on the time frame in which results are required.

Infectious diseases

The UAE has a strict policy when it comes to certain infectious diseases like HIV and AIDS. HIV-positive expatriates are deported, and contagious diseases must be reported to the local health authority. Many people who suffer symptoms refuse to seek professional help because they fear the repercussions and are embarrassed. Doctors need to take special informed consent before they test people for HIV or Hepatitis B.

It is important to note that STDs can have long-term consequences if left untreated. Issues include; sterility and chronic pelvic pain. Pregnant women should also be advised that untreated STDs can cause complications for their newborns.

Covid - 19

The World Health organisation (WHO) commended the UAE for leading the way in the Covid-19 pandemic by conducting the highest level of testing per million in the world. In May 2020, the UAE set up a sizeable Covid-19 testing lab whereby tests were rolled out on symptomatic and asymptomatic cases so that healthcare professionals can find, isolate, test, and treat every case, to curb the spread of infection. The rate of people who tested positive is considerably lower than the global average and one of the lowest total cases-to-tests rates in the world.

UAE stem cell centre breakthrough in Covid-19 treatment

Aerosol medication which has shown favourable results in the treatment of Covid-19, was developed by doctors and researchers at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre. The Aerosol was administered to 73 Covid-19 patients who have recovered. The Ministry of Economy said it had granted a patent to the centre to develop the treatment using stem cells. The treatment has successfully undergone the initial phase of clinical trials, demonstrating its safety. 

Covid-19 vaccine: 

On December 9th, the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) announced the official registration of China's Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine after it reported an 86% efficacy rate during Phase III clinical trials. The voluntary vaccine was launched in Abu Dhabi and has been extended to Dubai and the Northern Emirates. The Sinopharm vaccine was trialled in the UAE, involving 31,000 people. The Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine is available at the following clinics and hospitals:

Abu Dhabi

Clinics operated by Abu Dhabi Healthcare Company (SEHA), Mediclinic's Al Noor Hospital and hospitals operated by VPS Healthcare and NMC Hospital.

VPS Healthcare facilities:

Burjeel Hospital - Al Najdah Street, Abu Dhabi

Burjeel Medical City - 28th St, Mohamed Bin Zayed City

Medeor 24×7 Hospital - Al Falah St, Zone 1

LLH Hospital - Muroor Road Zone 1E3-02, Abu Dhabi

Burjeel Medical Center - Makani Mall, Al Shamkha

Burjeel Medical Center - Deerfields Mall, Shahama

Burjeel Medical Center - Precinct B-01, Al Zeina

Burjeel Medical Center - Yas Mall

Burjeel Medical Center - MHPC

Burjeel Day Surgery Center - Al Reem Island

Burjeel Oasis Medical Center - Beda Zayed

Tajmeel Kids Park - Shahama 12 Street, Emirates Park Zoo and Resorts

Musaffah:

Lifecare Hospital - M-24 Musaffah (Near Village Mall)

Lifecare Hospital - Baniyas

LLH Hospital - M 7, Al Mussafah

Occumed Clinic - Musaffah Industrial, Musaffah

Western Region:

Burjeel Oasis Medical Center

Al-Ain:

Medeor International Hospital - 'AsharijBida Bin Ammar

Burjeel Royal Hospital - Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road

Burjeel Medical Center - Barari

Dubai

Dubai Parks and Resorts field hospital

Sharjah

Wasit Medical Centre

Ajman

Al Humaidiya Centre

Umm Al Quwain

Al Bait Metwahid centre

Fujairah

Murashied Medical Centre in Fujairah. 

Vaccinations are also being administered at the following councils, or majlis from 10 am to 6 pm.

Al Bateen Council

Supervisor Board

Falaj Hazaa Council

Zayed City Council

Health issues in the UAE

Obesity

Recent studies have indicated that approximately 70% of the Emirates' population is at an unhealthy weight; this correlates with the lack of knowledge about leading a healthy lifestyle. 

Diabetes

It is estimated that over 800,000 people in the UAE have diabetes. This number is expected to rise by around 80% throughout the Middle East & North Africa region. 

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer found amongst men in the UAE. Colorectal cancer usually affects men who are above 60 years of age; however, in the UAE, many men under the age of 40 have been affected by this disease. 

Lymphomas

Lymphoma develops when lymphocytes (the body's white blood cells that help to fight infection) become out of control. They can divide abnormally or do not die when they should. The UAE is ranked the world's ninth-highest rates of the condition. 

Heart Disease

The average heart disease patient in the UAE is diagnosed at 45 years of age, which is 20 years earlier than the US average, which is 65 years of age.

Healthcare breakthrough in the UAE:

In partnership with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) showcased an investigational womb-like device that could decrease mortality and morbidity rates in severely premature infants, and the United States' first-ever approved personalised gene immunotherapy for cancer. The exhibition took place the annual Arab Health Exhibition and Congress, in the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. 

Healthcare innovations in the UAE:

AR technology 

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has collaborated with Proximie, which is a platform that virtually transports world-leading healthcare professionals across the globe at the touch of a button.The process entails combining live video-streaming with cutting-edge AR software. UAE doctors who are carrying out operations can communicate with top specialists based in different countries around the world. 

Concierge medicine

Concierge medicine provides a variety of healthcare services to UAE patients who opt for a higher level of care. Services may include having your own' on-call' doctor, access to telemedicine and the latest cutting-edge diagnostic and wellness services which is not usually covered by standard insurance packages. TruDoc 24×7 is a UAE based Telemedicine company where subscribers can communicate with a doctor 24/7 via phone, video or live chat. There are a wide range of services which includes specialist referrals, prescriptions, medicine deliveries, telemonitoring, access to wellness experts, customised nutrition and exercise plans as well as weight management, sleep disorder and pregnancy programmes.

Smart health devices

Scanbo is a Canadian biotechnology company that combines deep learning with activity monitoring, allowing six vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, heartbeat pattern, blood sugar and oxygen) to be captured within just two minutes. Data is stored on a mobile app and keeps a history. This information can then be relayed to the patient, doctors or nurses.

Artificial intelligence

AI technologies aid transformation in the UAE healthcare system. Use of these devices will provide data for research, which aids the development of effective health interventions. AR platforms, concierge medicine and smart health technology, are three of many future technological innovations that will support the transformation of healthcare in the UAE.





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