Most would go abroad for medical treatment

by Jonathan Gornall and Mitya Underwood ,  The National UAE | 2009-08-09

More than 70 per cent of UAE residents would seek medical treatment overseas if they fell seriously ill, according to a survey that reveals a widespread lack of confidence in the nation’s healthcare system.

Even Emiratis showed little faith in it, with 57 per cent saying they would seek treatment abroad.

Only 21 per cent of all respondents would put their faith in UAE healthcare if they became seriously ill, according to the survey, carried out from July 24 to 28 for The National by YouGov, an international research organisation.

More than half (53 per cent) of the 876 people asked said they would prefer to return to their home countries for treatment, while 18 per cent said they would seek treatment in other countries.

Analysis of responses by national groups suggests that this lack of confidence might be based on more than mere perceptions or prejudices; although a high proportion of Asians (71 per cent), westerners (57 per cent) and Arab expatriates (42 per cent) opted for leaving for treatment in their home countries – an option not open to Emiratis – only 26 per cent of UAE nationals said they would be happy receiving treatment here.

A similar proportion of Arab (27 per cent) and western (24 per cent) expatriates said they would elect to be treated here for serious illnesses, but only 15 per cent of Asians said the same.

Dr Fatma Abdulla, a fellow at the Dubai School of Government, said the healthcare sector had only itself to blame for the lack of confidence.

Health care had become a consumer industry, she said, and suppliers had to start focusing more on giving patients the best possible personal care.

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