Though the healthcare system in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) can boast of high standards, there are still miles to go to be on top of the world. That is why serious efforts are on to raise the quality of the healthcare services with a view to filling the gaps in the existing system. A major challenge is that of restructuring the system to benefit the expats more, according to latest reports.
The oil-rich UAE comprise seven emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm-al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah, and Fujairah. In terms of expat populations, Dubai is currently the number one destination, with nearly 4 million foreigners as against over 900,000 nationals. Dubai’s public healthcare, which is run by the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS), only provides free or low-cost medical services for UAE residents.
Of late, as a part of the government’s national strategy, the UAE seeks to raise the quality of healthcare services to international best practice by 2021, requiring significant efforts by both public and private actors. Historically, healthcare in the UAE – and across the Gulf – has been perceived as being of lower quality than in many developed countries, and this calls for major improvements, observes a report by the Intelligence unit of The Economist.
At present, the public at large use the local system for diagnosis and routine healthcare services. However, a major issue is that, for major surgery or treatment of serious conditions such as cancer, expatriates often return to their home countries, while many Emiratis choose to travel to the West for treatment, mainly Europe and the United States despite the fact that such procedures are very well available at home.
A 2012 Gallup survey showed that two in five Emiratis chose to go abroad for treatment. This growing medical exodus to outward destinations can be attributed to a lack of faith in the quality of existing healthcare services in the UAE rather than objective data, say analysts. A 2012 survey by the Dubai Health Authority found that almost 10% of those who travelled abroad for treatment did not even attempt to seek local medical advice before leaving.
According to the report in The Economist, the reasons for the perceived quality shortfall in the UAE relative to developed-country peers include
the small population, which limits the exposure of doctors to uncommon conditions or surgeries, and the fact that the development of their skills in
comparison with countries with larger caseloads is limited. But most often what happens is that if one healthcare provider or hospital makes a mistake, it spreads like a wildfire and the image of the entire healthcare system of the country gets tarnished, says an expat who has full confidence in the UAE’s healthcare system.
(Read the full part of this article from the August Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine)