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Everything an expert needs to know about the UAE healthcare system

Всё, что нужно знать экспату о системе здравоохранения ОАЭ

Medicine is another pride and income item of the UAE. Despite the fact that all services are paid, and 80% of clinics are private, treatment is quite accessible to all segments of the population. This is facilitated by a well-thought-out insurance system. The quality of service and the level of medical care significantly exceeds the same indicators in other clinics in highly developed countries. Therefore, the provision of medical services has long been a significant source of income for the country, as evidenced by the huge flow of visitors for the purpose of treatment: every year their number is 12 million people. The main areas of medical tourism are plastic surgery, dentistry, orthopedics, treatment of infertility and sports injuries, dermatology.

How is the healthcare system in the UAE


The healthcare system is considered one of the best in the world. Its device is similar to the Russian one: all medical institutions are under the control of the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP), each emirate has a regional control structure.

There are 143 private and public clinics in the UAE. Among them there are both multidisciplinary and highly specialized, for example, children’s or women’s. 84% of medical institutions belong to the private sector. Almost 15 thousand doctors work here, most of whom are invited specialists from abroad, as well as about 33 thousand nurses. Local residents do not really want to work in this sector, so the number of local doctors is small, but they all have Western-style diplomas. Only 16% of hospitals belong to the public sector.

Huge funds are invested in the development of the medical industry: an amount equivalent to 3% of GDP. The money goes to:

  • construction of new hospitals and their equipment with advanced technologies;
  • organization of new research laboratories and modernization of existing ones;
  • improving the quality of service;
  • introduction of telemedicine and artificial intelligence.

In addition to investing their own funds, the authorities actively attract external investments, doing this through the development of specialized free zones, the organization and promotion of business incubators.

Without exception, all types of medical services are free for local residents. But only paid medicine is available for expats: only emergency medical services are provided free of charge. However, the country has a system of medical insurance (in Dubai and Abu Dhabi it is mandatory for everyone), which covers even expensive operations. 

Public health protection programs


Much attention is paid to programs that contribute to maintaining the general health of the country’s population. A prerequisite for obtaining a residence permit in the country is passing a medical examination. It is necessary to exclude the expat from the presence of such severe viral and infectious diseases as HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis groups B and C. This measure reliably protects residents of the UAE from the risk of contracting serious diseases.

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements in the UAE. The exception is visitors from countries where there are foci, for example, cholera or fever. However, the Ministry of Health actively promotes the expediency of vaccinating children against diseases such as rubella, smallpox, hepatitis, polio, etc. Vaccination of children is free. In addition, as part of the children’s health protection program, newborns are tested for the presence of genetic diseases for free.

Screening programs aimed at the prevention and detection of cardiovascular and other age-related diseases are available for older people.

Pharmacies and medicines


There are a lot of pharmacy outlets in cities, and most of them work around the clock, providing customers with a huge selection of medicines. However, antibiotics, sleeping pills, antidepressants and painkillers can only be bought here by prescription.

In the UAE, many medicines that are used in other countries are prohibited for use. Their list is published on the MOHAP website. For the importation of these medicines into the country, you can get a penalty. However, if you have to take some medicine from this list constantly as prescribed by a doctor and you have this appointment with you, you will be allowed to import medicine in an amount that will last for three months. The procedure for obtaining a permit is fixed in the document “Instructions for the transportation of personal medicines for those entering the UAE”.

Types of health insurance and how to get them

Medical insurance is a document that allows you to be served in medical clinics in the UAE. Everyone coming to the territory of the country, even tourists who did not arrive for the purpose of treatment, must have it. The document is issued for a certain period, after which it must be extended. If this is not done, you will have to pay a fine of $ 135.

Employers in the UAE help their employees with a medical center. They pay up to 50% of its cost, the expat pays the second part himself. If the migrant brought his family with him, then he will have to take care of their insurance. Some employers partially assume the payment of health insurance for dependents of their employees.

Private insurance companies


The cost of insurance varies: the higher it is, the more services it can cover. When applying for a policy, factors such as age, salary, and place of residence are taken into account.

The minimum insurance in Dubai costs $150 per year. It can be issued by expats whose monthly salary does not reach 4000 AED per month. At the same time, the owner will be able to cover expenses within $ 40,000, taking into account the payment of 20% of the cost of services out of pocket.

Dental services are not included in the minimum insurance and are not always covered by a mandatory policy. Only assistance related to the elimination of acute pain will be provided free of charge.

More often, insurance is issued through private insurance companies that provide a large list of insurance programs to choose from:

  • individual insurance with maximum coverage of services can be chosen by expats living separately (expats aged 30 to 35 years old will cost about $ 1,500 per year);
  • the family package is more beneficial for those who have children or non-working dependents, but here the amount of coverage will be lower;
  • it is advantageous for students, startups from business incubators, freelancers to arrange a group package for 20 people at once.

The average cost of a policy with incomplete coverage for a family of 4 people will cost $ 4,600, and with full coverage – about 9,000.

The most popular non-state insurance companies are:

  • IMG;
  • Allianz Care;
  • Cigna Global;
  • Swisscare.

With insurance issued through a private company, you can seek help from both non-state and state clinics. However, the settlers prefer private ones, since everyone in them speaks English fluently, and in public ones mainly in Arabic.

How to get a Health Card

Health Card

Expats can apply to MOHAP for a National Public Health Card (Health Card). It is issued for 1 year, tied to an identity card and gives the owner the right to a 50% discount on treatment. The cost of such a card is approximately $ 125, but the number of clinics where it is accepted is limited. To get a Health Card, you need:

  1. Register with MOHAP.
  2. Submit an application by attaching scans of the first two pages of a valid passport, one photo, and a valid visa.
  3. Pay the service fee.
  4. Wait for approval, which will be notified by SMS.

Technologies and medical clinic service

Several “medical cities” have been created in the UAE for the development of medicine, attracting investments, as well as the convenience of patients. These are several blocks where specialized clinics, hospitals, medical and wellness centers, spas, hotels are located. Here you can live for months, be treated, recover and even more – enjoy life in conditions of maximum comfort. In Dubai, this is the Dubai Healthcare City FEZ, in Abu Dhabi – Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, in Sharjah – Sharjah Healthcare City.

In addition to medical buildings, there are also pharmaceutical enterprises, research laboratories, institutions where doctors are introduced to innovative methods of treatment and trained to work on new equipment. In the operating rooms of the Emirati clinics, operations are performed using the most modern equipment, for example, the Da Vinci surgical robotic manipulator, gamma knife and cyber knife devices are widely used, which allow removing tumors without making incisions. The results of the tests, changes in their indicators during therapy are monitored by artificial intelligence, which allows you to accurately diagnose and find problems long before their critical development.

If we talk about the clinic service, then here you can find paid facilities at the level of a seven-star hotel. But any other hospital provides patients with everything they need for a comfortable stay. 107 (and this is 2/3) hospitals have been awarded the JCI certificate – an indicator of the highest coherence of staff work, so that the risk of errors is minimized, and patient safety is the highest.

Dubai Healthcare City

Telemedicine is being actively introduced, allowing you to consult with a doctor online before arriving in the country.

Starting in 2019, in most private and state clinics, patient registration issues are handled by robot machines that recognize more than 100 languages. They will listen to the symptoms, determine which specialist is needed, and give a referral. This know-how removed the problems of the language barrier, and also greatly simplified and accelerated the process of finding the right specialist.

How to find a Russian-speaking doctor

You can find a doctor by various criteria, including language proficiency, on the website of the Dubai Department of Health (DHA). Now there are 126 Russian-speaking doctors registered on it. Not all of them come from Russia or CIS countries. These may be specialists who have studied or interned in Russian-speaking countries who speak Russian well.

Russian russians in the Emirates are growing rapidly, and the number of those who come here for the purpose of treatment is also increasing, because many clinics actively attract specialists with knowledge of the Russian language. On the websites of clinics, it is customary to publish resumes of doctors, which indicate not only their specialty, work experience, merits, but also language proficiency, as well as the address at which they can be contacted. This is a convenient system that allows you to find a Russian-speaking doctor.

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Vladimir Sviridov
Vladimir Sviridov
General Manager RLC Consulting
With a Postgraduate Masters in Finance from The, Moscow State University, Russia. Vladimir started his professional career as an auditor of the financial sector of EY. After that, he worked for several years in senior positions in corporate banking. In 2018-2021, he managed the finances of a large agricultural holding, and is currently responsible for strategic planning, corporate partnership and financial management in the role of General Manager of RLC Consulting GROUP in the UAE.

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