Sunday, May 14, 2006

Government Health Disservice

I have written before about the UAE's government health service. I have been impressed in the past, but now, sadly, I think it has lost its way and is entering a terminal decline. Why? Well first of all they apparently have no plans whatsoever to build any new facilities to cater to the hundreds of thousands of new residents in West Dubai. They appear to think that their services are not needed, and that all of us 'wealthy expats' can afford private facilities. There is vague talk of introducing a compulsory health insurance scheme but this will undoubtedly cost much more than the current Dhs 300 per year Health Card scheme.

What triggered this was that I had to visit the clinic yesterday to get a fresh supply of the pills I need to take every day. You can actually buy these pills over the counter at pharmacies, but they cost four time more than at the clinic's pharmacy. So, I pay my Dhs 40 consultation fee, wait 45 minutes to see a doctor, and another thirty seconds while he writes out a prescription. I take the script to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist is actually asleep at his desk. I wake him up and he tells me there is a new rule that says clinic pharmacies can no longer supply medicines to expat patients.

This is the first I've heard of this discriminatory and unfair rule - I have seen no mention of it in any of the papers. The logic of it, no doubt, is to save money. But if the health service is struggling for money they can always increase the prices a bit. Cutting off the service altogether is ridiculous! I know for a fact that the majority of the customers at this clinic are very poor subcon or Chinese labourers. Most of them will not be able to afford to buy medications at commercial pharmacies (another of the UAE's price-fixing cartels).

This leaves an interesting paradox. The Jebel Ali Clinic has virtually no national patients - I would be surprised if the total reaches 5%. So you have a fully stocked pharmacy manned by two pharmacists on alternating shifts. They are now effectively being paid to do nothing, which explains why the guy yesterday was asleep.



Anonymous Mme Cyn said...

I'm shocked, Keefieboy! I have never heard of such a thing. I thought the national health card entitled you to goods and services at any national clinic, regardless of your race/ethnicity/passport origin. Was this announced in the newspapers, and have you written to 7Days? Are you sure old sleepyhead wasn't just having you on?

9:41 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in the government health care services here and believe me the health care in the U.A.E. is slowly imploding. In a couple of months a new insurance scheme will be implemented in abu dhabi...You aint seen nothing yet! It is going to be a disaster. The only winners will be the private hospitals, expensive beyond belief and slowly emerging all over.

11:34 am  
Blogger Seabee said...

You might give it another try. As cyn said, it may just have been that the guy at the pharmacy couldn't be bothered.
We've all had that a million times haven't we, with each person telling you a different story.You just keep asking different people until one agrees to whatever it is you want.
Of course it could be true and it's simply the usual thing of no-one got around to telling us the new rule.

1:41 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

seabee: no, the sleepy pharmacist showed me the circular

1:57 pm  
Blogger CG said...

The only time non-nationals are entitled to medicine from the DOHSS pharmacies is if the medication is unavailable outside the government clinics, and they have a price list for this.
All was announced last year I believe when they started charging for other having a baby etc....and that is when a lot of expatriate Arabs decided it would be cheaper to get in their cars and drive their wives back home (Jordan, Egypt etc) for delivery.

2:39 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

CG: nope, I've had stuff from the Govt pharmacy as recently as six weeks ago, all of it available in commercial pharmacies for at least twice the price. This is in Dubai - could well be different in Abu Dhabi

2:43 pm  
Blogger Seabee said...

Keefieboy, WOW! They actually had a circular? It's usually just make it up as they go along, depending on the mood they're in.

6:21 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Seabee: th'art a cynical auld git!

7:04 pm  
Blogger J. Edward Tremlett said...

"I wake him up and he tells me there is a new rule that says clinic pharmacies can no longer supply medicines to expat patients."

I seem to recall, however dimly, news that this might be in the offing. Of course, that was years ago.


10:57 pm  
Blogger Deepak Morris said...

"This is the first I've heard of this discriminatory and unfair rule"

As you get pushed further into the annals of labourers sans means to buy into Dubai you shall probably see / hear many more such rules.

Dubai is elitist to the extreme. I saw it ten years ago, which is why I was glad to leave, the exquisite experience of the DDG notwithstanding.


12:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh god i hate this country...i hate it..HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE it. THERE! i said it. now i'm going to cry myself to sleep.

3:54 am  
Blogger Tainted Female said...

Seriously… where else are they planning on squeezing wallets in this place?

1:59 pm  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

So how could it be that it was so much cheaper at the government pharmacy than in the open market?

The UAE health scheme heavily subsidizes drugs for locals, and - evidently - was doing the same for nonlocals in the know - AKA, Keefieboy and friends. At the same time it doesn't fully fund the subsidy scheme. It is in chronic budget crisis. I'm not surprised they've closed the door to nonlocals - belatedly. The oil money is not meant for ex pats; this is not our welfare state, we just work here.

That does leave the pharmacist with little to do in clinics that are not frequented by nationals. Rationalization by privitization would be the answer to this absurdity, but somehow I don't that will happen any time soon. And it wouldn't be the remedy Keefieboy seeks.

11:06 pm  
Blogger Richard Lumb said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:33 pm  
Blogger Richard Lumb said...

Had to leave Dubai because I had no health insurance.

I lived in Dubai from 2002-2004. I developed diabetes during this period and had to flee to the UK for medical treatment. My employer Space Toon Kids TV in Media City did not provide health insurance despite my numerous begging requests. I tried to use the government services but I wouldn't take a dog or cat to one of them. There is no care provided for chronic conditions, it seems to be a one issue per visit type system. I was also struggling to pay for drugs for some other things like high blood pressure and cholesterol. The cost of drugs in Dubai is shocking. I would have never gone to Dubai if I knew health care and employers who don't look after their employees is such a problem. The whole issue of healthcare for ex-pats needs to be sorted out with health coverage for all being mandatory. If this happens I would like to return to Dubai one day.
Richard Lumb

10:39 pm  

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