Cancer patients in Abu Dhabi will benefit from the new expansive insurance coverage that includes a major government-run hospital in the emirate.
Previously, government hospitals catered mainly to Emiratis but as of yesterday, December 12, two major hospitals will accept non-Emiratis for the first time.
Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi and Tawam Hospital in Al Ain will begin offering their services to non-Thiqa plan holders.
Alongside other medical services, Tawam Hospital is renowned for being a leading centre for cancer treatments, which were previously reserved mainly for Emiratis.
Tawam's oncology centre sees around 2,500 new cancer patients every year.
The hospital previously only accepted Thiqa holders, emergency cases and those referred by private hospitals.
Now they will accept all insurance holders and those without insurance can receive treatment under the Activity-Based Mandate (ABM) plan.
“Cancer patients will benefit from the new decision,” said Dr Khalid Saeed Balaraj, chairman of oncology at Tawam Hospital.
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“We treat all types of cancer and are the only hospital in the region with this level of premium cancer services and currently have a multidisciplinary team that offers comprehensive treatment for every type of cancer under one umbrella.”
Previously, when a cancer patient's insurance coverage ran out, they would be forced to either continue paying for their treatment from their own funds, or seek the assistance of various charities to continue their care, which could delay treatment and reduce recovery options.
“With the announcement, we have opened up to include more insurance plans and those without insurance and only a residency permit can also be treated under our mandate. This guarantees that the needs of all cancer patients regardless of nationality, will be met and there is no interruption or delay in treatment,” he said.
Cancer treatment costs can vary, depending on the type and stage of the tumour, but costs can easily run to hundreds of thousands of dirhams.
Dr Sadir Alrawi, chief executive of the privately-run Burjeel Medical City, said that private hospitals would have previously given major discounts and appealed to charities on behalf of expatriate patients whose insurance did not cover the cost of treatment.
“In the past, non-local patients who had cancer would be treated in the private sector and we would try to accommodate them as much as their insurance covered,” he said.
“Now that government hospitals have opened up to non-locals, there will be more options available for cancer patients.”
Dr Alrawi doesn’t believe that they will be losing any patients to government-run hospitals.
“We are prompt and are open seven days a week. We are faster and you need fast communication and fast treatment — this is very important especially when it comes to cancer care but it is a competitive market and we are all working towards better patient care — more options is better for everyone,” he said.