Health plan means healthier emirates

The medical profession and the public stand to gain from the decision to give healthcare professionals permission to work in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

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In June of 2010, The National reported that doctors in Abu Dhabi were warning of a medical staffing crisis unless authorities relaxed existing licensing procedures. It was believed that the capital would need to double the numbers of practising doctors and nurses over the next decade to cope with an ageing and growing population.

That campaign received a boost this week when the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced an agreement to unify licensing procedures, making it faster for healthcare professionals to obtain permission to work in both emirates. It is a win for medical professionals and patients alike.

For starters, doctors will now find it easier to "choose where they wish to practise", says Zaid Al Siksek, the chief executive of Haad. They will also have an easier time sharing information, and expertise. Once the inter-emirate system is up and running providers will be able to become certified in both emirates in approximately one week.

This system will have patient benefits as well. Theoretically at least it could give people more control over their healthcare decisions. Open access to doctor information, which this new system should enable, would give patients another tool to research potential providers before they choose where to go for treatment.

Gone too will be the days when doctors accused of malpractice or incompetence in one emirate could simply move shop. Increased medical transparency, which this new system must deliver, will ensure that such activities are consigned to the past.

The first to see the benefits of cross-emirate cooperation will of course be those with the stethoscopes and lab coats. For hospitals and clinics, the hiring process will undoubtedly be streamlined, which will make overseas recruiting easier. At the same time, a proposed shared database of patient information will facilitate communication among different institutions, not to mention save lives in cases of emergency.

It will take time to iron out the kinks, but it will be time well spent. This is a fine example of the type of emirate-to-emirate cooperation the UAE needs more of to prosper.