The smoking cessation clinic located at Al Ittihad Centre has been turning away patients for the past nine months due to the absence of a specialist doctor and shortage of nicotine patches and gums that are given to patients as part of their nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Thousands have benefitted from smoking cessation services which is a key point in the country’s fight against tobacco use, officials told Khaleej Times, adding that the current logistic problems would be resolved ‘within months.’
“We are not closed…but since we have no doctor and a shortage of medicine, we have had to discontinue the services,” said head of the National Tobacco Control Committee at the ministry Dr Wedad Al Maidoor.
The Ittihad Clinic opened in 2006 when the ministry’s fight against tobacco use was at its peak. The ministry’s first smoking cessation clinic opened in Sharjah in 2000 and three others located in Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah are said not to be affected by the medicine shortage.
“All other centres are operating as usual…We hope to open the Ittihad Clinic by next month,” added Dr Wedad.
At all smoking cessation centres under the ministry, treatment and drugs are provided free of cost for UAE nationals, while expats can avail of the medicine at half price. The centres also offer free initial health checkups, a personalised treatment plans and health education.
Head of the centre Dr Ghada Fahmy commented: “We used to give patches and gum for Dh50 to expats for one week which is half the price of that is available outside.”
A total of 1,064 patients were registered at the centre in 2006. In 2011, there were 89 new cases and 140 follow-up cases. The number dwindled to 34 new cases in 2012 with 35 follow up cases.
“We have a decline in the number of cases in the last two years due to logistic problems that ended up with discontinuation of the work,” said Dr Ghada, who is also the medical director of the centre. “We will hopefully restart in 1–2 months,” she added.
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