Northern Emirates residents call for mandatory health care

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have introduced mandatory health care for all workers, but there is no universal health cover for those living in the other emirates.

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NORTHERN EMIRATES // Residents have said it is time they are afforded the same health benefits as workers elsewhere in the UAE.

While Abu Dhabi Government introduced mandatory health care for all workers in 2006 and a similar, long-awaited scheme in Dubai finally came fully into force last week, as yet there is no universal health cover for those living in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

Feras Sulaiman, a resident of Ajman who works in Sharjah, has medical insurance provided by his employer but thinks every resident in the Northern Emirates should be afforded the same cover.

“I think everyone should have medical health insurance,” he said. “Some of the labourers they are taking salaries, for example, of just Dh1,100 a month, so such people, if they get any sickness in their daily life, it would be very difficult for them to go to the hospital.

“They will choose to stay at home. They won’t take any medicine or go to the hospital – not because they don’t want to, but because they cannot afford it. It is too much of a percentage of their salary.”

Mandatory health cover will also help those who struggle to afford medication get what they need, added Mr Sulaiman, a Jordanian who works for sales company Proseq.

“In the UAE we have all types of people – we have the low-salary people and those with huge salaries,” he said. “But the medication here is expensive compared to different countries.

“It is not cheap and many cannot afford it. It will be very helpful not only for those with low wages but also for the middle class.”

Somaya Al Haddad lives with her parents in Ras Al Khaimah and said her family’s financial situation means she has not got health insurance and has to pay out-of-pocket when she needs treatment. The 25-year-old Palestinian worries about it.

“For me, I don’t have health insurance – only my mum and my three brothers,” she said. “Of course I worry but what can I do if I don’t have?

“This is the problem. The last days I am complaining because of my heart [pains]. But I do not have money and I cannot go to do ECG [electrocardiogram].

“Everyone should have health insurance because some people, they cannot pay,” she said. “What if they need to get urgent treatment and they do not have the money to pay? In this case what they can do?

“Also, some of the medicines are very costly. What is the benefit if they get the treatment and, at the end, they cannot get the medicine?”

Thankfully, she said, her mother, who has diabetes, has medical cover.

“But if she didn’t have the insurance she could not get the injections she needs for her illness,” she said.

Imad Oubiri, an Algerian living in Ras Al Khaimah, also believes everyone should have medical cover.

“Of course,” said Mr Oubiri, the investment promotion director for the RAK Chamber of Commerce. “We are one country and if one thing is good for one emirate, it should be good for the rest.

“Insurance brings security, stability and happiness – there are many benefits. More than one could count.”