Abu Dhabi: More than 200 cancer patients were left dumbfounded when they learnt that the patients affairs department (PAD) at Al Mafraq Hospital will no longer bear the costs of their treatment which ranges from Dh15,000 to Dh30,000 per month.
Prior to that decision, the PAD, under instructions from the Abu Dhabi government, covered all life saving medications and cancer treatment for over 200 patients in the hospital, most of whom are underprivileged.
"All the patients use the white health insurance card issued by the National Health Insurance Company (Daman), and that doesn't cover any cancer treatments. That's why the government was kind enough to us all this time," said Lavkesh P. (names have been changed for anonymity purposes), who has a 48-year-old wife who has been receiving free-cancer treatment in the past three years at Al Mafraq.
Like many other cancer patients, the cost of medications for Lavkesh's wife, who consumes over 800 milligrams of life-saving medication a day and undergoes chemotherapy, exceeds Dh15,000 a month.
"Once we questioned the hospital's decision to stop supporting us, the PAD told us to do what we feel like, and turned their backs on us. The so called world-class health treatment has left us desperate," said Lavkesh.
Juned, 37, earns less than Dh800 a month and has been receiving free cancer treatment from the same hospital for the past nine years.
"I have leukaemia and consume over eight tablets a day, injections and undergo chemotherapy. I'm a poor tailor who cannot afford to pay Dh1,000 a day on my medication, but without it I will die. I ask the concerned to please save my life," pleaded Juned.
Ahmad S., 49, has been receiving treatment for Multiple Myeloma (a cancer that starts in the plasma cells) from Al Mafraq for the past three years; however, unlike the 200 other patients, he carries a blue health insurance card from Daman.
"My health insurance policy covers my treatment which exceeds Dh1,300 a month. I also go for a magnetic resonance imagining (MRI) once a year and that costs Dh1,000. The financial burden among cancer patients is definitely a huge problem, and I'm fortunate to have this kind of health policy," said Ahmad.
In their response to the problem, and on behalf of Al Mafraq Hospital, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), which owns and operates all public hospitals and clinics across the Emirate, told Gulf News that they are aware of the issue and regret the misunderstandings created.
"It's true that in the past, patients with cancer and other life threatening diseases or conditions have been provided preferential treatment and pricing at our hospitals. With the advent of insurance and the changes in reimbursement practices, these types of programmes will sunset to be replaced by programmes that reflect the new health care landscape of the emirate and how health care is paid for and provided," said SEHA, who added that "once we have determined along with Daman and the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) how we will proceed in the future, we will notify any affected patient directly."
Email: Policy explained
An email sent exclusively to Gulf News from the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company regarding the matter said the following:
At this point in time we continue to provide coverage to those affected. While the new reimbursement mechanism involving critically ill patients is being reformulated and agreed by all parties within the healthcare infrastructure of Abu Dhabi, we will continue to offer life supporting care to anyone who needs it under our current policies. In brief, these policies are:
1. Patients with life, limb or organ function conditions of an emergent nature will be treated until stabilised regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
2. Our hospitals accept and treat patients with tertiary level care needs when treatments are not available elsewhere in the UAE.
3. Cancer care for patients who are residents of Abu Dhabi are covered for costs that are not legitimately covered by their insurance program. For expatriate residing in the other Emirates, SEHA offers free of charge chemo and radiation therapy since such services are not widely available outside Abu Dhabi.
4. SEHA also offers a full range of dialysis services for expatriates residing in Abu Dhabi.
5. For anyone who is not covered under one of the above policy situations, we have a social services expert at all facilities that will work with the patient to look into ways to help the patient with any financial issues.