Opening new clinics ‘would be a waste of money’, UAE minister tells FNC

Health minister Abdulrahman Al Owais explains to FNC members why three health centres in the Northern Emirates remain closed.

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ABU DHABI // A lack of patients is the reason why three health centres in the northern emirates have not yet opened, the Minister for Health has claimed.

Responding to a question at the FNC session on Tuesday, Abdulrahman Al Owais said other facilities in the area received less than 10 patients a day.

FNC member Dr Mona Al Bahar had previously submitted a question to the minister about why health centres in Dadna, Al Khulaibia and Al Okameya were not yet operational, even though construction finished years ago.

She said that residents have informed her that the buildings are deteriorating and need maintenance work.

Mr Al Owais explained that if they were to open them, they would just “waste the Government’s money.”

Instead the Ministry of Health is looking for alternative ways to activate these centers by turning them into specialised clinics rather than general health centres, he said.

Dr Al Bahar argued that the Ministry of Public Works had wasted millions of dirhams on building these centres if they were to lie unused.

“When we come to execution, we see there is a conflict between management and coordination between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Public Works,” said Dr Al Bahar.

She claimed lives were being put at risk not opening the centres.

“Especially since a citizen living in rural areas has to travel for 50 minutes to reach a neighbouring health centre. What if it was in an emergency? The patient will get worse or even die before they reach the centre,” she said.

She also mentioned an ongoing initiative to establish a central hospital in Fujairah, but this too had not been implemented yet.

“Even if the patients numbers are few, health care is a right for everyone... it is not a luxury it is a necessity,” she said.

Mr Al Owais said in fact the distance between the mentioned centres is no more than four to seven kilometres.

Dr Al Bahar then asked what was the point of building them if they were just to remain idle for years. “This also a waste of the Government’s money,” she said.

The minister explained said there was a greater need for specialised clinics than general hospitals or health centres.

“We are keen on providing services without hurting the welfare of the patients and existing centres,” he said.

Another FNC member, Ali Al Nuaimi, also brought up the issue of financial allowances for patients who were sent for treatment abroad. He said the present rate of 150 euros per day, plus 150 euros for each accompanying person is not enough.

Mr Al Owais said the allowance is very generous and more than enough to live comfortably in any European city.

He said that less that 10 per cent of people complained about the rate, adding those who did were not managing their budget wisely.

He also said the UAE pays more than any other GCC country.

On top of this, the Government contributes to funding patients’ entire medical treatment, which had reached up to Dh 8million in some cases, he said.

hdajani@thenational.ae