No need to go abroad for medical treatment

DUBAI - The UAE's highly developed healthcare system was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as better than the United States healthcare system. It is equally true that for many patients in the UAE, going abroad for treatment is no more a necessity but an individual preference.

By Hani M Bathish

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Published: Sat 16 Aug 2003, 11:29 AM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:13 PM

Millions of dirhams have been spent in massive expansion plans in the healthcare sector in the last couple of years to set up specialised hospitals and clinics and expand existing facilities. The process is being continued to ensure such facilities.

In the next two years, 17 new hospitals and 25 new primary healthcare centres will be established in the country, and by the end of the decade, the UAE Ministry of Health plans to double bed capacity at public hospitals to achieve a target of one bed on every 300 people.

The Dubai Health Care City and a number of private hospital construction projects means the availability of more and more rare specialities in medicine in the country. The number of private clinics alone has increased from 342 in 1999 to 429 in 2002.

In the past, when healthcare was not so well developed, many UAE citizens and resident expatriates travelled to the US and Europe for medical treatment, and returned home after getting a 'miracle' cure. It was rarely so simple, yet many continue to place absolute confidence and trust in European and American healthcare facilities.

Many private hospitals in the UAE insist that such high profile medical care is now available locally and patients no longer need to leave their family, friends and familiar surroundings and apply for a visa to travel to a foreign country, to get quality medical treatment, except in some rare instances.

Post-September 11, 2001, many Arabs and Muslims found even less reason to travel abroad for medical treatment or any other reason, unless travel was absolutely necessary, fearing reprisals.

Mr Jalal, in charge of public relations for Al Zahra Hospital in Sharjah, said the hospital provides its patients with medical reports and contacts hospitals abroad in case a patient wishes to travel abroad for treatment. He said that after incorporating cardiac care facilities, the hospital does not find the need to send patients abroad for treatment. Cancer patients are referred to Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, which is a specialist cancer hospital.

"We have some cases that we advise to go back home because their case may be quite desperate and they may prefer to be close to their family and friends, but as far as treatment is concerned our hospital offers comprehensive medical care. We do provide patients who wish to travel abroad for treatment with a letter and a medical report and we provide them with two or three names (of hospitals and clinics) and try our best to help them out," Mr Jalal said.

Clancy Po, Public Relation Director at Welcare Hospital, said the hospital does very few referrals to medical facilities abroad since Welcare itself provides comprehensive in-house medical treatment. "For any patient who wishes to travel abroad for treatment, we have tie-ups with different hospitals in the US. Our patients have not had trouble in getting visas to travel abroad for medical treatment, in my memory. Most travel abroad on a regular basis. For patients who need constant care while travelling for treatment we provide medical staff from our hospital to accompany them," Mr Po said.

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