Opinion | Columnists

UAE health care services are in decline

Hospitals and clinics lack basic medical equipment and are often staffed by inexperienced doctors

  • By Abdulla Rasheed, Abu Dhabi Editor, Gulf News
  • Published: 00:00 August 7, 2011
  • Gulf News

UAE health care services are in decline
  • Image Credit: Gulf News
  • The medical services that come under the purview of the federal health care system are, in general, very poor in all the hospitals and medical clinics in the northern emirates (Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah).

Health care services in UAE have been going downhill over the past few years. In fact, I can say with some degree of confidence that they have hit rock bottom. A careful examination of the conditions of hospitals with all the respective departments and divisions reveals the unthinkable — the services are in dire need of an overhaul.

Patient care lacks the most basic human touch, unprofessional emergency services and the rise in the number of medical errors are all manifested in every health care institution. In addition, a quick look at the numerous complaints from citizens and residents, detailing repeated medical negligence, often inhumane treatment of patients with special needs, and misdiagnosis of complicated conditions all support the claim that our medical services are in decline. This is apparent across the country from local clinics and hospitals to local health services (in Abu Dhabi and Dubai) to those provided by the federal government. And this is alarming.

The medical services that come under the purview of the federal health care system are, in general, very poor in all the hospitals and medical clinics in the northern emirates (Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah). There, the hospitals and clinics lack basic medical equipment and are without basic things that patients are in dire need of, including beds and bedsheets. The situation is such that patients often bring in their own bedsheets!

Inexperienced doctors are to blame for this medical crisis. The Ministry of Health employs doctors to cut costs. This also applies to other personnel like nurses, pharmacists, etc. In the federally-run hospitals and clinics in the northern emirates patients do not find needed medications. Often imported medications are purchased on a small budget allocated for such an important element of health care. Sometimes, medications are imported from cheap sources, and are often not effective.

Painkillers prescribed

Under such circumstances, patients from the northern emirates escape to the hospitals in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, thinking that health care would be better there than in their own emirate. But is it true that health services in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are better? The fact is that health care services in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not necessarily better than those of the northern emirates. In Dubai similar conditions are found in hospitals. In addition, the numbers of health care institutions that currently sustain Dubai is small when seen in the context of the increasing population. If the patient decided to use private sector health care, he will end up spending huge amounts of money.

In Abu Dhabi, the health care system is not any better than elsewhere in UAE, despite the claims Abu Dhabi Health Authority makes about meeting international standards in caring for people. A visit to the emergency departments in Shaikh Khalifa Medical Centre (SKMC) or Al Mafraq Hospital reveals the added agony that patients have to endure. The emergency rooms are filled with tens, sometimes hundreds, of patients who wait for long hours before they can be seen by a physician.

During the waiting period, patients' conditions may deteriorate, only to eventually be seen by a doctor for few minutes who, in turn, would prescribe painkillers! The exponential increase in the population of Abu Dhabi and the shortage of medical institutions have led to crowded emergency wards. Sometimes patients are obliged to wait for an entire day in the emergency ward before he or she can find a shared room.

Under such circumstances, doctors often decline to admit patients suffering from serious ailments or even refuse to diagnose these conditions. Last month, a patient who had undergone kidney transplant surgery abroad came to the SKMC emergency ward suffering from a terrible complication. Although she was in a severe pain, she had to wait more than four hours before anyone could see her. Eventually she was put in a critical care room waiting for a nephrologist. Several hours later, the nephrologist saw the patient and after prescribing painkillers asked her to go home.

The patient begged the doctor not to let her go and to admit her instead. The doctor refused and sent her home. She went back home only to realise that her condition had worsened and she almost died. The next day, her husband brought her back to SKMC emergency again in a much worse condition only for the doctors to realise that she had additional problems in her digestive system which nearly ruined her transplant surgery and killed her. She stayed for more than a week before she recovered. Such situations arise daily in Abu Dhabi hospitals. Patients may lose their lives because of the decline in the quality of health care.

Comments (22)

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  1. Added 15:01 August 7, 2011

    I was truly surprised when i had to visit a doctor in Germany, one of the "allegedly " very expensive places to get a treatment. After a short consultation I asked to have the receipt to claim it back from my insurance when i am back to Sharjah but not knowing it was 9 Euro. Which is about 48 dirhams, that is including 19% TAX !!! I was born and raised in UAE and have never in my life paid such a low amount for a doctor, and some time I wonder how much are we getting for what we pay, is it really worth it ?

    Tharwat Jad, Sharjah, Germany

  2. Added 13:20 August 7, 2011

    This is an eye opening article, and absolutely true. I have been living in the UAE for a little more that 3 years now, and after a lot of research, have yet to find a good ENT specialist. All the doctors I have visited are just there to make money, with no skills whatsover. And Hospitals hire them since they do not demand high salaries. Its high time that the government take some serious action to curb [the problems] n the Medicare sector.

    shahid, Dubai, Pakistan

  3. Added 13:04 August 7, 2011

    my wife was diagnosed with diabetes. For first six months we met 2 different doctors who treated her for type 2 diabetes where as she had type 1 diabetes. Even we could figure out from information and symptoms available on internet that she had type1 diabetes but doctors wont know. Finally after six months we got the appointment of a renowned doctor who gave some test (to be done in germany) which gave an official confirmation of her being type 1. She is taking insulin now which we buy from our home country (3 times cheaper than here).

    NJ, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 12:54 August 7, 2011

    I have been to a clinic in a leading shopping mall, there what I find is using of cheap steriles and cheap glouses. they charge 550 Dhs for just consultation and why they cannot use quality items. lack of resourses as people running around with many assignments. Its pity that they charge huge amount and cuts cost like they do charity.People goes to clinics for care and they pay heavy amount but clinics want to increase revenue only. Health care is a cash rich business.

    wasim, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 12:48 August 7, 2011

    I agree with some extent to what mentioned in the above article, yes alot of improvement is still needed to be made but I doubt that it reaches to the level that the editor mentioned it. Proudly I can say that here in Dubai and even in Abu Dhabi alot of govermental hospital have been got the JCI accredetation , this accredetation to the knowledge can't be give to such hospitals mentioned inthis article, I hope all has to be fair in putting judgments, just 1 or 10 cases will give an impression about the quality of service in a population of 4-5 million, and errors can occur we are all human!!!

    Hana A, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 12:23 August 7, 2011

    I am the victim of the negligence by one of the famous hospital in UAE. last year I was admitted for the delivery of my twins, it was c-section. during my surgery my left calf had 2nd degree burn, according to them its a short circuit from the device(electric coutery cord). for them they concluded saying all these things ---but for me it was like horrible and painful,I had suffer alot , couldn't look after my twin babies almost one year. Still a big scar is there and every day am getting internal pain also.

    Najitha Alambath, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 12:15 August 7, 2011

    An absolutely realistic report. Hospital administrations look how to cut costs only, and do not care about the qualifications and experience of Doctors. They believe doctors are all the same. Every one is replaceable. Good, experienced ,and competent surgeons, am sorry ,you do not find them in the street each day. When you want to pay little ,that's what you get.

    Costas Shamtanis, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 12:10 August 7, 2011

    Nowadays healthcare professionals are treating papers instead of patients. Huge demand on completing too many documents is putting pressure on medical staff. Nobody is there to check if patients recieved their right treatment in right time and providing situations for that instead many auditing going on regarding how staff [processed] papers.Wonderfull world????????

    seega, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 12:07 August 7, 2011

    I am scared to go to doctors here as previously I once spent 8hrs wandering in 3hospitals on friday in Abu Dhabi when had a hair line crack on my index finger and at night they just crape bandaged the finger saying that will do it. 2nd time was when I had eye problem in Dubai when the doctor told me eye lashes got in, and after 3days he said its conjuectivites and I stopped going to docotor and didnt take medicine and the next day my eyes were fine. For cold and common problems now I prefer to take my own medicines or wait for few more days to make it better than going to doctor.

    Abhishek, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:59 August 7, 2011

    Appreciate the editor for this article. After a very bad experience in almost all well known hospitals, clinics and even labs. I never go to any of them anymore. Whatever happened to me or to my kids, I fly to my homecountry. This is a big problem I am suffering since I arrive dubai six years ago. But my question to the editor, how can we solve this? and how can our voices reach the people who manage and responsible about this?

    Susan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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