UAE's healthcare sector helps residents in Dubai receive essential medicine

Vital assistance provided for patients hit by Covid-19 pandemic

Cuts to salaries and job losses have created problems across the world as many patients can no longer afford expensive medicines essential to their health. Getty Images
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Recovery from the global effects of Covid-19 is well under way in the UAE, as the labour market continues its resurgence from the pandemic-driven slowdown.

Hundreds of jobs are opening up across the Emirates, with more expected to come online in the next 12 months and companies expecting revenue to surge by as much as 50 per cent as part of a strong economic rebound.

Despite the positive sentiment, there are some who have had to seek urgent help to receive specialised medication after cuts to medical insurance benefits and salaries due to the pandemic.

The National spoke to Dubai residents forced to seek help to receive medicine that was not covered by their employers’ insurance and also too expensive for them to buy.

“I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease 13 years ago and without special medicine, I cannot walk properly or sleep and am constantly in pain,” said Anurag Joshi, 30, a sales manager from India.

“The medication I need costs Dh3,500 [$952] a month and was never covered by my medical insurance, but I was able to pay it myself out of my salary.

“However, the company I work for had to introduce 50 per cent salary cuts because of the pandemic and I wasn’t able to afford it any more.”

Mr Joshi was eventually able to obtain the medication after turning to a healthcare consultancy firm that put him in touch with a hospital programme in the UAE, allowing him to receive it free of charge.

“Without the medication, I couldn’t sleep for long and would wake up every few hours and would need to take painkillers to try and get back to sleep,” he said.

Another Dubai resident said getting access to medication for his leukaemia would have been impossible without help from a healthcare access company.

“I was diagnosed with chronic leukaemia six years ago and the medicine I needed was not covered by my health insurance,” said Ahmed Al Hoseny, 35, from Egypt.

“The medicine I need costs Dh19,000 a month and even if I spent my full salary on it I wouldn’t be able to afford it by myself.

“If that wasn’t enough, I also have to do a blood test every three months that costs Dh3,000.”

Mr Al Hoseny said being able to gain access to the medicine he required was “the difference between life and death”.

“If I didn’t get this help I don’t know what I would have done as I have to provide for my two children as well,” said the computer engineer.

Both Mr Al Hoseny and Mr Joshi enlisted the help of Axios International, a healthcare consultancy that puts people in touch with organisations such as hospitals and charities that can help them procure the treatment they need.

“There was a situation where a lot of people lost their work or means of support because of what happened [with Covid-19]. This is the same all across the world,” said Omer Karfis, cluster lead for Axios International.

“A lot of the people we help either don’t have health insurance at all or what they have doesn’t cover what they need.

“We work alongside organisations like the Ministry of Health and Prevention, hospitals and charities as well as pharmaceutical companies to get people in desperate need the help they require.

“We don’t give away free medicine; we connect people to those who can help them.”

Mr Karfis said there are many organisations, such as hospitals and charities, that provide programmes for worthy cases that desperately need access to healthcare, both regionally and globally, but cannot afford it themselves or do not have the insurance to cover it.

His firm connects patients – both in the UAE and worldwide – who require care with those with the means to provide it, once they can show their plight is genuine.

The company has offered support to cancer victims in the UAE as well as those suffering from conditions such as psoriasis and autoimmune disease.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than half of the world's population lacks access to essential health services.

“There is a challenge everywhere all over the world, not just in the UAE, for people to get access to the care they need,” Mr Karfis said.

“The majority of people are not lucky enough to have access to premium-level health insurance.”

Updated: October 29, 2021, 4:00 AM