The healthcare sector in the United Arab Emirates has developed rapidly in the last few years with a large Government system now supplemented by a dynamic, innovative private sector offering world class medical facilities, medical care and all specialities from basic primary care to increasingly advanced, highly technical specialised procedures.
We take a look at some recent examples of how Government policy has shaped the transformation of the health sector by advancing preventative medicine as well as advanced surgery, medical tourism and the Dubai Health Care City and how some previously small and low tech hospital operators have risen to the challenge and delivered outstanding results.
A breast cancer screening campaign launched in October has allowed over 1800 women to be scanned for the disease in the United Arab Emirates. Originally launched as part of the ‘Pink it Now’ campaign to raise awareness of the most common type of cancer in the UAE last October, the campaign saw scans taking place in the Zulekha hospitals in both Dubai and Sharjah.
A total of 1116 free consultations were carried out in Sharjah Hospital to the north-east of Dubai, whilst 445 x-ray mammograms were also taken during this time. In Dubai itself 318 mammograms were carried out following 718 complimentary consultations.
The scheme officially came to an end on December 31st 2015 however NGO, Pink Caravan, have organised their fifth annual a ten day long expedition throughout the Emirates in March. During their journey they will be offering free screenings and attempting to raise awareness of the disease which takes the life of roughly 5 in every 10,000 women in the UAE every year.
Advanced Cardio Thoracic Surgery
Meanwhile in Dubai’s Saudi German hospital a group of surgeons from the cardio-thoracic department replaced the complete ascending aortic valve and aortic arch of a 63 year old patient.
The risk rate of such a procedure stands at 25% with the death rate just under 10%. The operation however is mostly carried out on much younger individuals between the ages of 17 and 34. Furthermore the patient who received the transplant had a long history of diabetes which made the valve very brittle due to the build-up of calcium, thus increasing the risk of bleeding and even potential neurological damage.
It took a team of 14 medics 8 hours to complete the operation using ‘Bentall’s procedure’ where a composite Dacron graft is used as a substitute for the damaged valve. Normal heart function can only resume once the new valve has been inserted and the aortic root, ascending valve and coronary arteries has been re-implanted.
Post-surgery concerns were also raised as the patient suffered from hypertension however these fears proved to be nothing more than that, as they made a full recovery allowing them to leave the hospital just eight days after the operation was carried out.
A blood donation campaign organised by the Government owned Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi has been hailed as a success. The event was organised in order to try and help meet the increasing demand for blood throughout the medical sector in the Emirate city.
As well as in emergency situations such as car accidents blood transfusions are also required in order to help those suffering from serious blood disorders such as leukaemia and anaemia. Leukaemia affects roughly 283 people every year in the UAE – mostly men – and with the continual growth in population that number is likely to increase in the future.
All donors were tested prior to donating to ensure that their blood was suitable to be used in a transfusion and to prevent infections from spreading.
The UAE Healthcare Sector
But why is the healthcare system in the United Arab Emirates so strong? What attracts highly skilled medical professionals to the Emirates?
It would be foolish to suggest that finances alone were the only factor in convincing medical professionals to uproot and move to a country thousands of miles away from home. It is, however, a fact that cannot be ignored, earning an already improved salary but without having to pay income tax is a major factor in many people’s decision to move to the UAE. Many jobs also offer accommodation and schooling fees alongside the basic salary in order to make the move a more attractive prospect.
The medical facilities in the Emirates are some of the most impressive and modern in the world. The Dubai Healthcare City opened in 2002 and is a healthcare ‘free zone’ that covers 4.1 million square feet and attracts upwards of 1 million health tourists annually. It is the home to over 120 separate medical establishments covering everything from dentistry to psychology. With visitors numbers increasing annually further investment and expansion of the area is already on the horizon.
Outside of the Healthcare City there remains a thriving healthcare system, run both privately and by the government. Thirty hospitals are in the control of the Ministry of Health whilst private hospitals, clinics and dentists are almost three times that number. The demand for continually high standards of healthcare in the Emirates along with the fierce competition for the custom of health tourists mean that the facilities are modern and equipped with the highest possible standard of equipment. The main language of the healthcare sector is English, a further reason for the ever increasing number of western based medical professionals moving to the Emirates.
The Emirates and its Cities
The advanced, modern and impressive healthcare facilities combined with the prospect of higher salaries are not the only potential positives of a move to the UAE. The country has an awful lot more to offer.
In 2014 the UAE was ranked as having the lowest level of violent crime anywhere in the world. Whilst the country still officially adheres to Sharia Laws these have been relaxed slightly in certain areas to allow those moving to the country to feel more comfortable.
Furthermore the Emirates can boast an average temperature of upwards of 30 degrees, and less than 50mm of rainfall on average each year. A climate perfect for those fed up with the cold, wet one experienced in the more northern regions of this hemisphere. Exclusive developments built solely to house ex-pats have also been created. These areas are towns in their own right, and boast an excellent range of facilities such as shopping and sports centres and schools.
The main metropolis’ in the UAE are Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and these cities are home to some of the most stunning and incredible architecture that can be found anywhere in the world. At 828m the Burj Khalifa is officially the tallest building in the world – more than double the height of the Empire State Building! Featuring a viewing deck 555 meters up, a shop and even a swimming pool, it is undeniably one of the must visit attractions in Dubai.
As well as this remarkable feat of construction and engineering people are attracted to the country for its large shopping malls, stunning golf courses and variety of museums – ranging from the historical Al Ain Palace museum in Abu Dhabi which was formally home to Sheikh Zayed the country’s founder, to the brand new ‘Ferrari World’ theme park.
Sporting Highlights of the UAE
An ever increasing number of world class sporting events are also taking place in the United Arab Emirates. The Dubai desert classic golf tournament will feature the sport’s biggest names such as Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day when it takes place in February. International football exhibition matches are also played during the winter and summer breaks, meaning that club sides like Manchester City and Barcelona have visited the country in recent years alongside the Brazilian national team.
Perhaps the biggest sporting event on the calendar is the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix which takes place at the Yas Marina circuit in November of each year. Traditionally the last race of the season it is an opportunity to showcase the UAE in front of a world audience, and it’s an opportunity which is ceased on by the government.
It’s not hard to see why more and more medical professionals are electing to move to the United Arab Emirates. It has world class hospitals which are continuing to improve with more and more investment, it enjoys year round sunshine and is home to some of the most impressive events, buildings and museums on the planet. If that doesn’t convince you to consider a move, then maybe the added bonus of the tax free income will.