Dubai: When Sri Nawas, a 38-year-old Indian construction worker, walked into Karama Medical Centre (KMC) clinic near his camp in Al Quoz to treat an abscess on his right cheek, he was worried about the charges.
Around noon, the father of two who is from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh was given a 2-cm incision to drain the pus. His total bill: Dh140, including consultation. Antibiotics good for seven days were given for free. Mainstream hospitals in Dubai would have charged him up to 10 times more.
"I'm just relieved this problem is over," said Sri Nawas who has no medical insurance - a situation faced by up to 70 per cent of Dubai workers. His doctor, Dr Ashifa Noushad Ali, said Sri Nawas can also have a free follow-up consultation after a day.
KMC is just part of a chain of clinics that have come up around Dubai's workers' accommodations, offering low-cost treatment to thousands of low-paid construction hands like Sri Nawas.
Dr Jerry Jeyasingh, managing director of the KMC group, which employs 40 doctors in five clinics in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, said: "Affordable basic health care for blue-collar workers is possible and its right here. These people need to be served, too."
In Al Quoz Industrial Area alone, more than a dozen such clinics have come up. The New Sanaiya Group of clinics and pharmacies, for example, operates in 10 locations in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman.
As most workers are unable to even afford transport to clinics at a time when they are sick and penniless, Al Musalla Medical Clinic (AMMC) in Al Quoz has gone the extra mile, with free transport (pick-up and drop-off service) for patients. MMC's in-house health maintenance organisation charges a premium of around Dh400 per head for an outpatient service to more than 60,000 workers employed by companies like Arabtec and Dubai Taxi.
Manisha Gupta, a general practitioner in Al Quoz for two years, said: "Access to basic health care is the first line of defence against spiralling costs, both in terms of worker downtime and actual medical bills, provided the right treatment is done early," she said.
The clinics also do their bit of charity. Mohammad Bilal, insurance coordinator of Aster Medical Centre's Al Quoz branch which attends to 250 patients daily, said: "Not a day passes when a patient without money comes to us, but we attend to them."