“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
UAE is home to almost 10 million people as per the latest United Nations estimates. The population is a mix of Emiratis and expatriates who enjoy a high standard of living including top healthcare facilities. The quality standards are so high that Abu Dhabi and Dubai now rank 2nd and 3rd amongst popular medical tourism destinations in the region according to the World Bank. For many tourists a visit to Dubai and/or Abu Dhabi is a double win. They can enjoy a relaxing vacation while relatives or friends get up-to-date medical attention.
The nation’s healthcare industry had humble beginnings as it traces its way back to 1943 when a small healthcare center was opened in the Al Ras area of Dubai. The first Al Maktoum hospital that followed was set up under the patronage of Sheikh Saeed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai. Abu Dhabi was not far behind. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then ruler of Abu Dhabi constructed clinics and other facilities modeled on the American system he saw and experienced during travels in the US. The private sector too began contributing motivated by the market potential and government encouragement. The clock has not turned back since.
Quick progression and moving into the 2000s saw the establishment of DUBAI HEALTHCARE CITY (DHCC). Situated on a land spread over 4.1 million square feet in phase 1 and 19 million square feet as phase 2, DHCC has become a popular destination for both residents and tourists seeking medical attention.
Advances made today in Dubais Healthcare City makes it home to hundreds of medical hospitals, outpatients centers, medical colleges, units for research and education and 4000 licensed professionals who provide top quality medical care to the population.
UAE’s Healthcare system is an amalgam of government and emerging private sectors initiatives. Several Boards regulate this sensitive sector. The Ministry of Health and Prevention, Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Health Authority, and the Emirates Health Authority are among the bodies that oversee Public Healthcare Services in UAE.
While the driving force behind the growth in the Healthcare system was to improve the quality of lives and reach to almost 100 percent of the population of UAE, medical tourism has been a boon to the economy as it keeps Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the list of top medical tourism destinations of the world.
Most of the international healthcare insurance providers are in the UAE. Joined by local players, they continue to add impetus to the industry. Health insurance was made mandatory in Abu Dhabi for all private sector employees in 2008 followed by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) mandating health insurance policy coverage for renewal of visas and issuance of new residence visas in 2017.
The progress made in the Health care industry has been transformational. Diseases of the past such as malaria and measles have been eradicated completely. New vaccination policies and prompt treatment supplement care in facilities around the country. Improved lifestyle and sanitation have reduced the infant mortality rate to 7 per 1000 and the maternal mortality rate to 0.01 per 100,000.
The impact is by design and not coincidental. 2/3rd of government expenditure is invested in Healthcare. In 2019, the government approved a budget of $16.4 billion for public spending with more than half earmarked for the enhancement and advancement of healthcare facilities.
Another focus area is the encouragement of top-notch medical professionals. The government has a special provision for long-term visas for such talent.
As the country’s imports of state of the art medical equipment grow alongside the ever expanding medical infrastructure, partnership with US and European institutions to set up world class hospitals, clinics and other medical research foundations continue to ensure leadership positioning of the UAE in the ever-important sector.
The newest achievements in the past 2 years has been six robotic surgeries of different kinds setting world records in the region. More are expected to follow.
There’s no looking back on the healthcare sector in the UAE as it maps and surpasses global standards.
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