UAE Govt.: Health

UAE Govt.: Health Last updated on Thursday 20th May 2010

Just as there was little education in the UAE prior to the discovery of oil, so there was even less medical service. In major towns -- Abu Dhabi and Dubai -- there were small hospitals, usually financed from abroad. The various emirates could afford almost nothing for their people in the way of health services. In the mountains and in the desert, malnutrition was a constant problem and there was no access to doctors or even the simplest kind of medical treatment.

That situation has changed completely since the discovery of oil in 1962. The investment in health care has been enormous: a country-wide health education programme and easy access to all kinds of medical care. So much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) believes that the UAE is well on the way to attaining WHO's target of "Health for All by the Year 2000".

Although the country's population has increased ten-fold in the past twenty years, the ratio of medical personnel to population is on a par with most developed countries. There is one doctor for every 600 people; one nurse for every 225 and one hospital bed for every 250. There is a total of more than 9000 beds in government hospitals and medical centres. In addition, there is a thriving private sector with nine hospitals, 44 polyclinics and almost 1300 doctors.

In the past of even the simplest operation often involved an expensive stay in a hospital abroad. Now, however, because of links with outside medical bodies such as The Royal College of Surgeons in Britain, highly complex operations -- open heart surgery, organ transplants, laser treatment -- can be carried out in the UAE's own ultra-modern facilities.

In a further effort to guarantee the availability of the most up-to-date health care to its people, the UAE Ministry of Health keeps in close touch with medical research and breakthroughs all over the world. The Ministry has sponsored international medical conferences as well as exchange and training programmes. The beneficiary of these activities is of course the entire population of the UAE, citizens and expatriates alike.

Preventive medicine has not been neglected in this forward movement. More than 95% of new-born children in the UAE are vaccinated against tuberculosis and 85% against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

Once a chronic problem, malaria has been virtually eliminated from the country. And immunization against measles of both kinds has reduced infant mortality rates to 11.8 per 100,000 -- a figure that can hold its own with developed nations.

Life expectancy has risen to 73.5 for women and 71 for men, representing a remarkable advance in a relatively short period of time.

The development of the health services has been accompanied by the introduction of local training for nurses, paramedical staff and doctors. The Medical Faculty of the Emirates University has attracted some of the world's top specialists who train and teach UAE students while the nursing colleges in Abu Dhabi and Dubai produce several hundred well-qualified young UAE nurses every year.

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