Dubai is one of the seven federal emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was created along with the formation of the UAE in 1971. As an Emirate, it is governed legally, politically, and economically by the UAE under a federal framework. Its military system is also governed by the UAE.
Dubai’s population stood at approximately 1.3 million residents in 2006, of which 99% are concentrated in the city. The population consists of 17% UAE nationals and the rest are expatriates from various countries including Pakistan, India, the Philippines and the UK. Life expectancy in Dubai is high at 77.87 years for females and 72.73 years for males. Crude birth rate is 12.8% and the infant mortality rate is at 9.2 deaths per 1000 of the population.
The most common infectious disease in Dubai is chicken pox with 3,472 recorded incidences in 2006. This is followed by viral hepatitis B with 392 cases and pulmonary tuberculosis with approximately 310 cases. Heat stroke is also prevalent in Dubai due to hot summer temperatures.
Dubai healthcare at a glance
Dubai’s health services are internationally recognized and are of a high standard, comparable to other developed countries. Hospitals, which boast modern facilities, are strategically located to ensure accessibility. There are approximately 20 clinics and hospitals distributed across the Emirate. The ratio of clinics/hospitals to patients is 1:78,000. One of the more impressive practices of medical professionals in Dubai is the post-clinic, private medical call. These are considered as part of their responsibilities. Medical attention is provided, regardless of residency or nationality.
Dubai’s public healthcare is run by the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). It provides free (or very low cost) medical services for UAE residents. Many of the practitioners are foreign health professionals trained in their home countries. A high percentage of these professionals come from USA, India, Egypt, Europe, and Pakistan. Their qualifications are carefully verified before they can practice healthcare in Dubai.
In general, Dubai aims to improve the over-all wellbeing of its people. Its strategy is to provide patient-specific care. The most popular medical services provided by healthcare providers in Dubai include immunizations and vaccinations, psychiatric treatments, medical fitness examinations, community services (such as marriage and family counselling), adult and infant yoga therapy, rehabilitation, and education on health and nutrition.
Normally, the first diagnostic visit to a private doctor costs £40. This does not cover any other medical examinations that may be required. Post-clinic private consultations are charged higher than the regular clinic consultations. Night-time calls may result in charges of £70 and upwards. Doctors issue receipts which the patients can use to obtain a reimbursement from their private insurance (if they have any).
Private healthcare insurance
Healthcare insurance is not compulsory for all employers. Foreign workers may either obtain their own health insurance or apply for a health card issued by the DOHMS. Public hospitals will only accept foreign patients with health cards and on an emergency basis only.
Expatriates used to constitute about 75% of the public hospitals patient numbers. Thus, since 2001, medical services are no longer free to expatriates, but they are still provided with high subsidies. Since 2004, only foreign patients required for admission are accepted by public hospitals. Discounts are only provided to cover room rates, and other services, while in the hospital, are unsubsidized. However, life threatening emergency cases are provided free of charge.
Visitor information in Dubai
Visitors are generally not required to undertake a medical exam or carry a medical certificate unless they have been in cholera or yellow fever infected areas in the past 14 days. However, visitors should ensure that they are perfectly healthy prior to visiting Dubai as medical costs are high for expatriates and foreign workers.
The most common diseases were identified above. However, none of these, except for the heat stroke, are applicable to expatriates. Some of the most common health conditions of foreign nationals in Dubai are alcoholism, respiratory-related problems, dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn. Alcoholism is usually brought about by depression among foreign nationals working in Dubai. Respiratory-related problems are often triggered and aggravated by sand and dust in the air, brought about by the continuous construction in the country. Heat strokes and sunburn are brought about by the extreme heat in the country, which can reach temperatures as high as 50°C.
In cases of health emergencies, it is best to either call an ambulance or proceed to the hospital using a taxi. It is advisable for expatriates to know the location and contact details of the nearest hospital in case of an emergency.
Sleeping pills and anti-depressant drugs are prohibited from being sold over the counter. However, whenever necessary, and in medically required conditions, patients are advised to obtain prescriptions for the use of these medicines. Medicines are generally expensive in Dubai. Receipts should always be requested with buying medicines, particularly if the health insurance will reimburse out-patient medicine expenses.