More than 20,000 Abu Dhabi workers given health screenings

Doctors look for conditions that could lead to workplace accidents

Dr Nahyan Helal pictured in his clinic in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi. He recently opened a second medical centre in Madinat Zayed to cater to thousands of oil industry workers. Victor Besa / The National
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More than 20,000 workers have been screened this year at an Abu Dhabi health centre, as medics look for conditions that could lead to accidents.

Patients were found to be suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Speaking to The National during a tour, Dr Nahyan Helal said occupational health was crucial for the health and safety of employees.

Dr Helal is head of the Holistic Medical Centre, the first private facility to be licensed as an Occupational Medical Centre in the capital. He is also the first Emirati to specialise in occupational health medicine.

Imagine hiring a school bus driver and being unaware that he is diabetic, and his blood sugar levels drop while driving a bus full of young children
Dr Nahyan Helal

“Imagine hiring a school bus driver and being unaware that he is diabetic, and his blood sugar levels drop while driving a bus full of young children," he said.

"Or hiring an electrician who is colour blind, or a firefighter who is asthmatic.

"Imagine having a heart patient in charge of drilling at an offshore oilfield. I’m telling you from now, this person won’t survive.

"In each of these scenarios, the safety of the individual, the public and the employer is at high risk. My job is to make sure that the individual is safe and the environment that he or she is working in is also safe.”

More than 100 companies are contracted with HMC to provide full occupational medical screening check-ups for their employees up to three times a year, depending on the age and the type of the profession.

Thousands of workers are being screened for health problems. Victor Besa / The National

Dr Helal said: “We have catering companies, hotels, oil, and gas, aviation, maritime and many different international clients. Employers are aware of the importance of regular check-ups for their employees. This absolves them of any future liability and is less costly in the long run.”

Workers will have their vision, hearing, heart, chest and blood tested, with an occupational medical certificate issued electronically.

“Our aim is not to have anyone to be unfit but that the right person be placed in the right and proper job," Dr Helal said.

"If the tests show that any of the workers have a health problem then we make recommendations that they be relocated to another department."

Every occupation has a different set of required medical tests. For example, taxi drivers and food handlers require a specific test to check for communicable disease.

“Every job has its requirements and ultimately, we want them at jobs where they are safe, healthy and productive," the specialist said.

Occupational medical checks are not covered by insurance, with employers shouldering the cost. As a result, some companies do not adequately test their employees, he said.

“At times, it is the workers themselves who are unaware of the [proper use] of their personal protective equipment, for example,” he said.

“Ultimately, we are all partners in this – the government, the employers, the employee and the public. It is necessary that we all co-operate and communicate for everyone’s sake."

Dr Helal recently opened a centre at Madinat Zayed, two hours from Abu Dhabi.

“Many of the industrial and oil companies are there and it was necessary that we go to them and not the other way round," he said. "We want to be where we are needed.”

Updated: June 26, 2022, 7:53 AM