Dubai is one of the seven (7) 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, as an emirate, has authority only in some local government matters such as civic law enforcement and the provision and maintenance of local facilities. Being one of the most advanced and progressive of the emirates, it has veto power over nationally important and critical matters. Another factor that could have contributed to such powers is that its ruler is the Al Maktoum dynasty. Notably, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum used to be the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.
Prime Minister Al Maktoum set policies in Dubai that created free trade zones such as the Internet and Media Cities, the International Financial Centre, Maritime City, the Airport Free Zone, and the Jebel Ali Free Zone. These free trade zones, which encouraged investments in the Middle East, are either tax free or provide incentives that make taxes extremely low.
Dubai’s present population stands at about 2,262,000 residents in 2008 in which 99% are concentrated in the city. The population is consists of 17% UAE nationals, 71% are migrants and workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Philippines, and other Asian nations, and approximately 3% come from western countries.
Life Expectancy in Dubai is high at 73.35 years for males and about 78.56 years for females. Crude birth rate is 12.8%. 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 about 312 cases. Heat stroke is also prevalent in Dubai due to very hot summer temperatures.
Health Care in Dubai at a Glance
Dubai’s health services are internationally recognized to be of good quality and comparable to other developed countries. Hospitals, which boast of with their modern facilities, are strategically located to ensure accessibility. There are about 20 clinics and hospitals distributed across the Emirate. The ratio of clinics/hospitals to patients is 1:78,000. Dubai does not have obligatory state or employer contribution insurance schemes.
Dubai’s public health care is run by the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). It provides free or very low cost medical services for UAE residents. There are also private health care providers. Many of these practitioners are foreign health professionals trained in their home countries. Most of them come from USA, India, Egypt, Europe, and Pakistan. Their qualifications are carefully verified before they can practice health care in Dubai.
In general, Dubai aims to improve the over-all well being of its people. Its strategy is to provide patient-specific care. The most popular medical services provided by health care providers in Dubai include: a) immunizations and vaccinations, b) psychiatric treatments, c) medical fitness, d) community services such as marriage and family counseling, e) adult and infant yoga therapy, f) rehabilitation, and g) education on health and nutrition, among others.
One of the good practices of medical professionals in Dubai is the post-clinic private medical calls which is considered as part of their responsibilities. Everyone is equally provided with appropriate medical attention regardless of residency and nationality. Normally, first diagnostic visit to a private doctor costs £40 excluding other required medical examinations. Post-clinic private consultations are charged higher than the regular clinic consultations. Night-time calls may run up to more than £70. Doctors issue receipts which the patients can reimburse to their insurance, if any.
The biggest medical project the emirate has undertaken is the Dubai Healthcare City, where a Medical Center, teaching hospital, the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center and the Boston University Institute of Dental Research and Education Dubai are located.
Private Health Care Insurance in Dubai
Health care 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 only accept foreign patients with health cards but on an emergency basis only.
This was echoed in Dubai Expat Forum last April 27, 2009:
No, it certainly is not free in Dubai. All healthcare is private and you will need to make your own arrangements.
When choosing private health insurance companies or health maintenance organizations, the amount of cover, the health cases that can be covered, and the general medical benefits that can be obtained by the insured should be looked at.
Expatriates used to constitute about 75% of public hospitals’ patient burden. Thus beginning 2001, medical services are no longer free to expatriates but are still provided with high subsidies. Come 2004, only foreign patients required for admission are accepted by public hospitals. Discount is only provided to cover room rates but other services while in the hospital are unsubsidized. However, life threatening emergency cases are provided free of charge.
Public hospitals offer the most number of surgical procedures. However, private health insurance in Dubai has no provision to allow procedures to be done in public hospitals so they go to private health practitioners just to avoid from personally paying for the procedure.
All in all, expats declared in Dubai Expat Forum last December 5, 2008 that:
but from I have learned the healthcare system is very good, and hospitals very sophisticated. In most cases stronger than the US and UK. I understand health insurance can be very pricey, but a lot of times your employer will pay for it
Visitors Information in Dubai
Visitors are generally not required to undertake a medical exam or should carry with him a medical certificate unless they have been in cholera or yellow fever infected area in the past 14 days. On the other hand, 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. None of these however, 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, heat stroke and sunburn, and potential dehydration. Alcoholism is usually brought about by depression among foreign nationals working in Dubai. Respiratory-related problems are oftentimes 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 go 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 that expatriates should know the location and contact details of the nearest hospital to facilitate emergency cases.
Sleeping pills and anti-depressant drugs are banned from being sold over the counter in Dubai. However, whenever necessary and in medically required conditions, patients are advised to obtain prescriptions for the use of these medicines. Notably, medicines are generally expensive in Dubai. Receipts should always be requested with buying medicines particularly if the health insurance of expatriates will reimburse outpatient medicine expenses.