Free Red Crescent clinic draws 9,000 to Al Mirfa
AL MIRFA // When the Red Crescent came to town, its free clinic was always expected to be popular.
No one predicted, though, that the throng would be so intense that the police have to be called in for crowd control.
Over six days, concluding last Monday, around 9,000 people visited the clinic in the small coastal town of Al Mirfa, about 200km west of Abu Dhabi.
They had come for a rare chance to access medical services, which are scarce in the area. Some could not afford the X-rays they needed, while others had been waiting years for an eye test.
Still others were given asthma inhalers, blood pressure monitors or even wheelchairs.
The result was huge crowds and, on the final day, the police were called in to keep order.
"The problem is that from the Saudi border to al Mirfa, there is not a single ophthalmologist," said Dr Mohamed Jasim, an ophthalmologist at the Al Nour Hospital in Madinat Zayed, 100km away.
He said the most common problems were short sightedness, eye infections and allergies resulting from living near oil fields. He also saw several people with lazy eyes, a condition often exacerbated by neglect.
Mariam Abdelwahid, who has lived in al Mirfa for 20 years, has not had her eyes tested since 1998. At last week's town hall clinic, the 50-year-old Emirati housewife was told she needs glasses - and given Dh300 towards them.
Dr Luay Abu Kaloseh, an orthopaedist at Madinat Zayed Hospital, said there were many cases of people with broken bones who never sought treatment because they could not afford X-rays.
"We tested them and sent them to Al Mirfa hospital for X-rays and casts. The Red Crescent is taking care of the expenses."
He said he had seen many cases of spinal diseases and osteoporosis, especially among older people.
"I also sent a number of cases with slipped discs for surgery," he added.
Boys as old as four were brought for circumcisions because their parents could not afford the Dh2,700 fee at Al Mirfa hospital.
"Circumcisions are free for Emiratis, but non-Emiratis have to pay a lot and it is not covered by insurance because it is considered as plastic surgery," explained Dr Saifddein Saleh, a surgeon at al Mirfa hospital.
Mohammed al Mazroei, head of the RCA branch in Al Gharbia, said 19 circumcision and hernia surgeries would be referred to Al Nour Hospital.
"The main problem in Al Mirfa is that it lacks many medical services. For instance, there is no dental, ophthalmology or dermatology clinics."
He said another problem facing non-nationals in the area was that insurance cards do not cover their medical expenses. Others have cards from companies that do not deal with the hospitals in the area.
"We cannot really do anything about that because it depends on the law and the health authority," he said. "Our role as RCA was to see what is missing and try to provide it during the campaign."
Published: October 22, 2010 04:00 AM