The UAE has a highly developed health service, including a sophisticated physical infrastructure of well-equipped hospitals, specialised clinics and primary care centres. Health care in the UAE is provided in over 70 public and private hospitals. In addition, over 150 healthcare centres and clinics focus on primary care. This health infrastructure stands in stark contrast to the 7 hospitals and 12 health centres that were in place when the UAE Federation was established in 1971.
The UAE Ministry of Health oversees implementation of government policy in relation to the provision of comprehensive health care for all UAE citizens and residents. UAE nationals are covered by free health insurance schemes and sponsors are required to provide health insurance for all employees and their dependants. Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) introduced mandatory health care for all workers in 2006. By 2013, the Abu Dhabi health insurance system covered 2.73 million people. Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has also implemented insurance schemes for nationals and residents.
As the population increases and healthcare demands burgeon, government strategies such as Emirates Vision 2021 are committed to continuing improvements in healthcare services throughout the emirates. Reducing the need for Emiratis to travel abroad for specialised treatment is a key driver in this area.
The 364-bed Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) opened in mid-2015. This is part of a growing network of medical facilities operated by Abu Dhabi investment company Mubadala. Eighty per cent of doctors at CCAD come from institutions in the United States and one-third of these have medical experience at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Cleveland Clinic personnel have a long-standing presence in the region through management of Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Services at the new facility have been tailored under the mandate of HAAD to complement the range of healthcare services that are already being offered in the emirate. The Clinic will provide world-class care in digestive diseases, opthalmology, cardiac and vascular care, neurology, respiratory and critical care.
The new Paediatrics Clinic at Tawam Hospital, which is operated in affiliation with Johns Hopkins Medicine and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), is also designed to fill gaps identified in HAAD Gap Analysis reports.
In certain situations health care can be delivered remotely using sophisticated telemedicine facilities such as Telemed, which is available at Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, a joint venture between Mubadala Development Company and Switzerland's leading telemedicine provider, Medgate AG.
Abu Dhabi's CCAD, Sheikh Khalifa City Hospital, Mafraq and Tawam Hospitals join the many hospitals throughout Dubai and the other emirates in providing UAE residents and nationals with a high stand of medical care. Dubai Healthcare City, which has recently announced its second phase, is instrumental in this process. As well as minimising the necessity to send patients abroad, medical tourists are also encouraged to come to the country to avail of these new facilities. The medical tourism sector is projected to grow by about 15 per cent annually.
The Dubai Health Authrotiy (DHA) master plan 2013–2025 includes a Dh3 billion revamp of Rashid Hospital, which incorporates a new Trauma Care Centre, and the 200-bed Al Jalila Children's Speciality Hospital. Both of these facilities are scheduled to open in 2015. The plan also includes establishing 40 new primary healthcare centres and three new hospitals, as well as three new medical colleges and five nursing schools over the coming ten years. These three new colleges are in addition to the University of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for Medicine and Health Sciences, which will receive its first batch of students in September 2015. A strategy has also been developed to make the nursing profession more attractive, especially to Emiratis.
Currently, pre- and post-natal care in the UAE is on a par with the world’s most developed countries. Maternal mortality rates in 2008 were 10 per 100,000 and 99 per cent of births are attended by skilled health personnel. The infant mortality rate in 2012 was 7 per 1,000 live births and the mortality rate for under-fives was 8 per 1,000 live births.
Available figures on immunisation ratios for all vaccines show that they are administered uniformly to over 90 per cent of newborns. Most infectious diseases like malaria, measles and poliomyelitis that were once prevalent in the UAE have been eradicated. New vaccination campaigns are taking place to protect against chicken pox, pertusis and the rotavirus.
As a consequence of this high standard of care at all stages of the system, life expectancy at birth in the UAE, at 76.5 years, has reached levels similar to those in Europe and North America. Unfortunately however, as elsewhere, lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are taking their toll in the UAE. Cardiovascular diseases account for the highest proportion of deaths from non-communicable diseases and high rates of obesity in the local population increase the risk of diabetes and hypertension. CardiovasculE disease accounted for 36.7 per cent of all deaths in Abu Dhabi in 2013.
According to HAAD, in 2013 injuries were the second leading cause of death (19.6 per cent) and healthy life years lost in Abu Dhabi. Fatal injuries were caused primarily by road traffic accidents (62 per cent), followed by injuries due to falls and falling objects (11 per cent), and suicide (8 per cent). Occupational injuries and childhood injuries accounted for 18.4 per cent and 12.2 per cent of total injury deaths respectively.
Cancer is the third-leading cause of death in the country, after heart disease and accidents. Breast, colon and prostate cancer are the three most commmon types.
As already outlined, world-class facilites such as the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, the Gulf International Cancer Centre, Dubai Hospital, University Hospital Sharjah and the Tawam Hospital in Al Ain provide high standards of care for people suffering from these diseases. However, a renewed focus on prevention and management and health awareness drives promoting healthy lifestyles are being initiated and supported by public and private bodies. Initiatives include major information campaigns, walks to raise awareness about diabetes, anti-smoking campaigns and healthy diet and fitness drives. For example, the Healthy Children 2020 initiative, which aims to reduce child obesity in the UAE by 12 per cent by 2021, targets school children in the UAE.
The Pink Caravan Ride is a pan-emirates breast cancer awareness campaign involving a nationwide horseback trek. This initiative orchestrated by the Friends of Cancer Patients charity (FoCP) has screened approximately 35,000 men and women of all nationalities since its inception five years ago.
One of the consequences of an increase in life expectancy is an ageing population. This presents particular challenges to a sustainable healthcare system and efforts are continuing to significantly enhance care of the elderly, including establishing geriatric clinics dealing with dementia, osteoporosis and rehabilitation. Home-care services for geriatric patients who are unable to visit clinics will also provide services.