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Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: December 2013

UAE healthcare providers generally run along free enterprise lines, although there are public hospitals as well. Healthcare standards are high by Middle East standards, but not by Western standards.

Availability of well-trained doctors and high-technology equipment should not be a problem, unless you live outside Dubai or Abu Dhabi, in which case you may have to travel. The good news if you live in smaller emirates is that the Government is planning to build additional healthcare centres in these areas.

In the UAE, it is largely possible to find English-speaking or Arabic-speaking doctors, though you might struggle a little with the accent in the first place. As the UAE attracts hundreds of thousands of highly skilled expatriates, you can even expect to find healthcare professionals who speak your native language, though you might need to search out.

If you are not happy with the UAE healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave UAE. In any event, you must go to a hospital in the UAE if you have an emergency.

Fees (overview)

The fees charged for healthcare in the UAE can be very high, especially in world-class private hospitals. Even for basic outpatient services, a simple consultation with a physician could well cost you $65.

Finding a doctor

You should look for a good general practitioner (GP) in your local area as soon as possible. A GP may refer you to a specialist or to a hospital if he believes you need it. You cannot apply for specialist treatment unless you have prior referral from a general practitioner. Overall, the process may take a few months, so you should plan in advance.

Feel free to:

  • check how many doctors and hospitals there are in your local area
  • check their opening hours, and patient feedback/satisfaction rate
  • ask your doctor if he has an out-of-hours service
  • share your experiences with friends of yours, and be open to what they have to say.

Word of mouth can help you determine if a specific doctor or hospital is trustworthy or not. You are always better off knowing in advance who you can trust.

Private hospitals vs. public hospitals

Unlike private hospitals, you shouldn’t expect much comfort or friendliness when you are going to public hospitals. This is certainly because the Government is paying for medical necessities, not comfort.

With regard to the actual medical treatment, public hospitals are not necessarily worse than their private counterparts. If you require major trauma care, you may even have no choice but to go to a public hospital, as private hospitals may not be competent to address the most serious cases.

The bad thing is that expatriates may simply be denied admission to the public hospital unless they are uninsured or their problem is really urgent, which means that an expat doesn’t really have much choice to go public or private.

Medicines

The cost of medicines in the UAE is generally high, though there are exceptions. Consequently, you might wish to bring medicines from your home country, if you can. In some cases, a prescription from a doctor may be sufficient. In some other cases, prior authorization from the authorities is actually required.

In any event, don’t forget that you must observe the UAE’s strict anti-drug laws at all times. If you have any doubt on whether you can legally bring medicines with you to the UAE, feel free to seek advice.

 

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