Plea to put an end to medical tourism

ABU DHABI — Health authorities are trying to encourage UAE citizens to seek medical care locally, instead of needlessly going abroad, an official has said.

By Anjana Sankar

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Published: Wed 4 May 2005, 10:55 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:23 PM

“We are compelled to bear the expenses of foreign treatment of a large number of people going abroad due to pressure from patients and their families, even though local hospitals can very well handle their cases,” Dr. Ahmed Mubarak Al Mazroei, the director of International Affairs Division, said here yesterday.

Dr. Mazroei was responding to the comments by international health experts at the Global Medical Forum that concluded yesterday at the Abu Dhabi Men’s College that the UAE should put an end to medical tourism as it damages the local health care system and demoralises the professionals.

Dr. Jullien Gaer, the Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Harefield Hospital, said that after 30 years of achieving tremendous development, it is surprising that the UAE still has to invest billions to offer foreign medical service for its national patients.

“I think that those who are at the high end of the social ladder, both socially and economically, should be first visibly seen using the local health care system so that others will follow suit,” he suggested.

While debating the issue, there were also suggestions from the audience that medical tourism should be encouraged but in way to attract patients from the GCC and other countries to UAE hospitals.

On steps taken by GAHS to discourage the practice, Dr. Mazroei noted that there is a need to educate families on the improved standards of medical service available locally.

According to him, GAHS has started a medical orientation programme in cooperation with local hospitals.

“Meanwhile, we are also trying to identify the weakness in the existing system, achieve the same standards that patients are looking for abroad by recruiting the best professionals and facilitating easy access to all kinds of medical care in the local hospitals.

“We are looking at the prospect of reinjecting the billions within the country for long-term development of the national health care system,” he said.

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