Abu Dhabi: Medical professionals across the UAE have hailed Sunday’s Cabinet decision that will provide 10-year residence visas for specialists like themselves, calling it the best government decision they had come across so far.

The long-term visas will provide a much-needed sense of stability, and allow professionals to plan for their futures, doctors told Gulf News on Monday.

“This is a benchmark decision that will definitely increase the flow of qualified health care professionals to the UAE. But on a personal level, it helps people like me make plans for our future. The stability will allow me to enrol for further professional qualifications, for instance,” said Dr Rashmi Mathai, internal medicine specialist at Universal Hospital, told Gulf News. Dr Mathai hails from India.

“What’s more, I believe the decision will help encourage further medical research as professionals can be assured that they will have the time and opportunity to complete ground-breaking long-term studies,” she added.

In practical terms, specialist doctors, consultants and those of higher ranks will not need to undergo the visa medical screening every two years, as has been customary so far.

“Such a decision definitely increases our loyalty towards the UAE. It indicates the leadership’s appreciation for the talent that has chosen to call the UAE its home, and definitely enables us to feel less like outsiders,” said Dr Hesham Souka, general surgeon and medical director at Medcare Hospital, Sharjah.

Dr Souka, a British passport-holder with Egyptian ethnicity, relocated to the UAE three years ago, and he says the Cabinet’s announcement has made him feel even more welcome.

“We don’t have to worry about the practicalities of frequently renewing our visas, and I believe this allows us to focus on patient care. Honestly, I had thought I might stay for a two to three years but we love it here and I don’t see any reason to leave now,” Dr Souka said.

Dr Yasmin Sajjad added that she feels even more committed to her goals.

“I used to head up one of the largest fertility centres in the United Kingdom, and I moved here about two years ago to explore newer horizons. Then I found that I especially liked interacting with Emirati patients. With the added stability afforded by this decision, I plan to stay on and serve them for much more time to come,” said Dr Sajjad, head of department and director of IVF at Burjeel Hospital. She is a British national with Pakistani origins.

Dr Thumbay Moideen, founder and president of the Thumbay Group that currently operates numerous hospitals, clinics and laboratories in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said that the decree will help boost the economy.

While the decision has been widely greeted, professionals did add, however, that there is still a need for further clarification on when, and how exactly, it will be put into effect.