February 21, 2006

The United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Ministry of Health (MoH) is attempting to raise public healthcare standards so that it can compete effectively with the private sector. Industry sources claim that the MoH ran a deficit of AED50mn (US$13.61mn) in 2005, which left a number of health clinics and pharmacies short of stock.

In order to make the MoH more financially viable, a number of measures are being planned. These include forming committees to address specific problems within the system, increasing the number of primary health clinics and stocking pharmacies with more medicines. A lack of funds has recently caused shortages of drugs for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

Meanwhile, the MoH plans to learn from private institutions such as Dubai's Healthcare City, which houses international medical organisations such as the Harvard Medical School, and provides regional headquarters for a number of multinational drug companies.

The market share of the private health sector has risen in recent years and now accounts for around 56% of health expenditure in the country. This is partly attributed to the government's decision to end free medical aid to expatriates.