Healthcare failings slammed in the UAE
Members of the Federal National Council (FNC) have blamed the Ministry of Health for lack of internationally recognised healthcare standards, shortage of doctors and hospital beds and failing in its efforts to prevent chronic diseases
The members of the House demanded wide-ranging reforms for the health-care system, especially in the northern emirates.
The House debated health policies in the presence of Health Minister Abdul Rahman Al Owais, who has been an acting minister of health for the past two years and was sworn in as a minister only a few days ago
A report by the health affairs committee at the council criticised what it called a weak role by the ministry in preventing chronic diseases and a shortage in medical services, especially in the northern emirates.
“Shortage of health-care services in many government hospitals forced thousands of citizens and residents to seek treatment at hospitals away from their emirates,” the report said, blaming the poor services on the lack of uniform standards for recruitment and evaluating of doctors and medical technicians and a shortage of these.
The members also blamed the poor health services on insufficient funds, with the report saying that the budget of the ministry, which oversees 15 hospitals and 65 clinics across the country, was just Dh209 billion.
The report further criticised the ministry for lack of international standards in terms of the bed-doctor ratio. “In keeping with international standards, more than 2,100 hospital beds need nearly 2,200 doctors, but the Ministry of Health has more than 2,200 beds and only 1,100 doctors,” according to the report.
Lack of accreditation of hospitals and clinics was also blamed for substandard health care with the report demanding that the joint commission international (JCI) standards be applied to improve quality and patient safety in all clinical and managerial functions of acute care hospitals,as well as embrace continuous performance improvement.
The UAE ranked second highest worldwide for diabetes prevalence, while 37 per cent of Emiratis suffer from high blood pressure, which causes major heart diseases and death among 31 per cent of the patients, said an earlier report by the House.
Ahmad Mohammad Rahmeh Al Shamshi, a member from Ajman, also noted the lack of health screening of the population for chronic and life-threatening diseases, especially diabetics and cancer.
Dr Shaikha Ali Al Owais, a member from Sharjah, warned of a worrying increase in medical mistakes, a shortage in Emirati medical staff and a lack of tracking of doctors’ errors.
The report said Emiratis account for only 21.2 per cent of the total number of doctors employed by the health ministry, which is blamed on lack of incentives offered by the ministry compared with those provided by local departments and the private sector.
Out of 3,807 nurses, only 297 or 7.8 per cent are Emirati, according to the report, which also noted a shortage in Emirati technicians, who account for only 30.6 per cent.
While the report noted a shortage of medicines in general and those for chronic diseases in particular, it criticised the ministry for failing to dispense other medicines before the end of their shelf life. “Medicines worth Dh13,113,057 were found expired as at November 16, 2011,” according to the report.
Members of the council demanded a federal medical drugs watchdog to monitor medicines from factory to patients and the setting up of a supreme health security commission.
The members also demanded health insurance be applicable to all citizens.
The Health Minister admitted “reforms to health-care services demanded by members of the FNC are crucial and tops priorities of the government.”
Al Owais, however, sought support of the House to push for greater allocations for enhancing health services.