SHARJAH // One week ago, Abdullah Rashid Al Naqbi was in desperate need of life-saving surgery he could not afford.
The 54-year-old Emirati policeman suffered from a bowel condition and the necessary operation cost Dh50,000.
But he is now on the road to recovery at University Hospital thanks to a decree from the Ruler of Sharjah, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, offering free medical tests and treatments to all nationals in the Emirate.
Mr Al Naqbi is one of 4,000 Emiratis who have visited the hospital in the last month. About 10,000 check-ups and 100 surgeries, at a cost of Dh5 million, were carried out in October alone.
The free treatments will be available for an unspecified period.
"If God enables someone to save your life you should be grateful to God and that person," Mr Al Naqbi said. "For we Emiratis, we can't lose hope in anything before our Rulers, who have become our parents, know about it.
"Sheikh Sultan would always be willing to give anyone a helping hand at any critical hour of need and we pray that God adds this generous practice to his scale of good deeds on the day of judgment."
Prof Hossam Hamdy, vice chancellor for the University of Sharjah's medical and health college and chairman of the department of surgeons, carried out Mr Al Naqbi's surgery.
"The intestines were out of place, just covered by the skin. We had to push them back in the operation," he said. "We had to do a complete repair of the abdominal wall using a new synthetic mesh to give support and re-enforcement of the weak muscles on the interior wall of his abdomen.
"The operation took about five hours and we kept him in intensive care for two days to be sure he did not develop any respiratory problems after the operation."
Dr Amr Abdul Hamid, the Ruler's adviser for higher education, said Emiratis were now entitled to a full medical check-up for high risk conditions such as cardiovascular disease, breast cancer or prostate cancer. The offer is open only to nationals living in Sharjah.
The Thiqa health insurance scheme covers Emiratis but often does not include complicated procedures.
Prof Hamdy said the initiative was a chance to collect data about the major diseases affecting Emiratis, which could be used to guide the planning and strategic direction of future health projects in Sharjah.
Patients travelled to the hospital from as far as Al Dhaid for the free check-ups. One woman, Hessa Al Suwaidi, took her eight-year-old daughter Mezzna for treatment.
"She was born with some eye problem, her eyes were red," she said. "The doctors have examined her and agreed the problem can be fixed. For my second daughter, I just want to do medical check-ups to ensure she is fine."
Emiratis can make an appointment with doctors at University Hospital by calling 06 505 8588.