Accommodating flying doctors

A fast-track visa for medical specialists who visit briefly will help support medical tourism

Specialist doctors who visit the UAE occasionally will benefit from a new fast-track visa. Photo: Mike Young / The National
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Medical tourism falls squarely within the UAE's aspirations to diversify its economy through establishing highly-skilled industries. But as The National reported yesterday, the considerable potential of this field depends heavily on the quality of the medical professionals it can attract and one such barrier in Dubai has been the lengthy time it takes to approve doctors to work in the emirate.

Particularly with the modern trend of specialists visiting for up to a month at a time rather than basing themselves in the UAE, the dilemma for the authorities is how to balance fast-tracking visa approval – which currently takes at least two months and sometimes as long as nine months – against ensuring the highest medical standards.

Dubai Healthcare City’s solution has been to slash red tape by creating a new class of visiting-physician visa for these itinerant medical professionals. The safeguards come in the form of a requirement that only those who have reached consultant level in their own country are eligible and there must be evidence they are needed in Dubai. Patients will have access to the visiting doctor’s credentials and their history of practice.

There is much to recommend this common-sense approach because the best people in each area of speciality often have ties to their home countries that discourage them from relocating to the UAE. Their professional reputations are also closely aligned with their home hospital’s. One survey last year showed 80 per cent of doctors believed the high quality of care was a reason why medical tourists visited Dubai, so having the best specialists is clearly important to the industry’s sustainability.

There is also a virtuous circle in attracting the best practitioners to the UAE because their skill and knowledge will be passed on to those working with them, reinforcing the local industry’s reputation and establishing this as a global hub for medical tourism.