The UAE has a comprehensive, government-funded health service and a rapidly developing private health sector that delivers a high standard of health care to the population. Healthcare is regulated at both the Federal and Emirate level. Public healthcare services are administered by different regulatory authorities in the United Arab Emirates including the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Emirates Health Authority (EHA).
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. In addition, access to clean water in urban and rural areas is assured for 100 per cent of the population, and close to 100 per cent use modern sanitation facilities. Pre-natal and post-natal care is on par with the world’s most developed countries: the new-born (neonate) mortality rate has been reduced to 5.54 per 1000 and infant mortality to 7 per 1000. Maternal mortality rates have dropped to 0.01 for every 100,000.
Due to the success of this high standard of care across all stages of the health care system, life expectancy in the UAE is 76.8 years, reaching levels similar to those in Europe and North America. To date, health care in the UAE has been funded mainly by the Government. The UAE in its modernization and path of reform is now evolving this funding to focus on increasingly important public-private partnerships.
The UAE’s public policy for health care focuses on developing organizational and legal frameworks based on best practice, and to overhaul and upgrade the private and public sector health service capabilities. In addition, public policy action will set priorities for health services development within the sector.
Health Care Transformation in Abu Dhabi
Health care delivery in Abu Dhabi is undergoing a significant transition that will affect the entire spectrum of stakeholders: patients (citizens and expatriates), providers and those responsible for planning, assuring the quality of services and financing the health system. The key objectives for the Health Authority in Abu Dhabi are to:
- Improve quality of care, always the primary consideration, to be promoted through application of rigorous service standards and performance targets across the board.
- Expand access to services, giving all patients access to the same standard of care with the power to choose health care services thus promoting excellence through free-market competition.
- Shift from public to private providers safely and efficiently so that private providers, rather than government, service health care needs, with the role of government restricted to the development and enforcement of new, world-class health care standards.
- Implement a new financing model through an innovative system of mandatory health insurance.
Insurance for all workers, including domestic, is required and funded by sponsors. The compulsory health insurance plan for private sector employees, as implemented in Abu Dhabi, came into effect across the country in 2008. Hallmarks of the new system included a clear and transparent reimbursement process, affordable access for all residents and reliable funding for quality health care in Abu Dhabi.
A charitable fund continues to operate for underinsured expatriates and to aid in financing more serious medical conditions such as cancer, dialysis, polytrauma and disability.
Health Care Transformation in Dubai
In neighboring emirate Dubai, healthcare is experiencing rapid innovation through modernization of patient service delivery and infrastructure projects. The Dubai Health Authority serves a dual role as regulator and operator of the Emirate of Dubai’s healthcare sector. Priorities for the health care sector in Dubai include retaining and attracting high caliber medical and healthcare staff, strengthening initiatives around postgraduate healthcare education and continued investment in primary and specialized health services.
There are also two healthcare free zones in Dubai, Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, which have their own regulatory bodies. Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) was launched in 2002 by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid to meet the demand for high-quality healthcare, today DHCC has two hospitals, over 120 outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories with over 4,000 licensed professionals. Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park, launched as part of Dubai’s 2010 vision to establish a knowledge-based economy, is the world’s first free-zone dedicated to life sciences.
The UAE is working with leading global institutions to further develop its health care system. The UAE seeks to become a major center for world-class health care in the Middle East, for not only its own residents, but those in the region as well. A number of the UAE’s strong partnerships are with US-based institutions:
- The Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is in operation as a world-class specialty hospital and clinic.
- The Johns Hopkins Medical School manages health care systems in Abu Dhabi, including the 469-bed Tawam Hospital.
- The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has a partnership with the UAE government for breast cancer education.
- The Children’s National Medical Center and the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi partnership has been credited for helping improve infant mortality rates in the UAE, developing a successful internship program with Emirati doctors and establishing the UAE as a destination for regional, pediatric care.