Like everything else in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), going to visit a doctor is different for expatriates than what they are used to at home. Read on to find out about the process of obtaining healthcare in the country.
Be sure to go to your GP well in advance of your move to the UAE, to ensure you have plenty of time to make the appropriate arrangements. This includes getting any vaccinations that are needed for this area of the world.
Malaria is not an issue in the country, but injections for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella, and polio are all necessary. Hepatitis A and B and rabies vaccines are also recommended.
The climate in the UAE is very different to the UK and it is important to be prepared for the effects this could have on your body. Avoiding exertion during the hottest part of the day, drinking plenty of water and using sun protection may sound obvious, but are important things to remember.
Take your medical records with you
Be sure to get a copy of your medical records from your doctor in the UK before moving to the UAE, as this will help to ease the transition to a new healthcare provider. It should outline your medical history, as well as any conditions, treatments, tests and vaccinations you have had.
Some of the drugs that are widely available in the UK by prescription are considered controlled substances in the UAE. If you intend to bring these with you then a three-month supply is the limit and they must be authorised by the UAE Ministry of Health prior to travel.
It will then be a case of trying to get a prescription for the medicines in the country if you need to continue taking them. A visit to a GP may lead to you being given a viable alternative if necessary.
Expat insurance is a good idea and is something that you can organise yourself or through your employer. UAE nationals and residents can get treatment from the Health and Medical Services Department, but this requires a health card, which is issued by the Dubai Health Authority.
GPs in the UAE do not work in practices like they do in the UK, but are usually based in medical centres or clinics. There are around 20 such establishments in Dubai alone and they can often be found within hospitals.
You do not have to register with one and if you desired could go to different centres, but this is somewhat counterintuitive. Frequenting the same doctor will allow them to become familiar with your medical history and therefore be able to treat you more efficiently. The appointment system is less widely used and patients can just turn up and be seen in most cases.
Most doctors work 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm Saturday to Thursday with Sunday and Friday acting as the weekend for much of the country. It is easiest to get seen by a doctor during these times. Arriving in the middle of the day when it is hot is likely to leave you with a wait for the clinic or centre to reopen.
Seeing a specialist
To see a specialist you do not have to be referred by your GP, so you can just make an appointment yourself. Going through your doctor does have a number of benefits however, such as giving the specialist more context on your medical history and symptoms.
It also means that you are going on a recommendation from someone in the industry. If for some reason you are bypassing your GP, try and get advice from elsewhere on which specialist will best be able to help with your problem.
The emergency services number for the UAE is 999, which is easy to remember and if called, an ambulance will attend your location. All patients are assessed at A and E departments when they arrive and less serious complaints can entail a long wait.