A mobile hospital in Ras Al Khaimah will provide free medical services to thousands of uninsured labourers.
Part of the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Volunteering Programme, the hospital began its work at the weekend. It will provide services to RAK residents for three months before moving on to other emirates.
The mobile hospital supports uninsured, low-income workers who do not have the money to see a doctor or buy medical insurance.
Such workers usually rely on government hospitals for emergency treatment and chronic cases are supported by donations and governments. Unlike Dubai and Abu Dhabi, mandatory insurance has not been introduced in the Northern Emirates.
About 600 workers of various nationalities used the free services on the first day at a health camp in the Jazirat Al Hamra area.
Thirty-five doctors, 10 nurses from public and private hospitals and hundreds of volunteers are part of the programme.
The hospital will set up camps near labour accommodation every Friday and will visit schools every Wednesday and Thursday. It will cater to neighbourhoods and other institutions the rest of the week.
"Some of the workers were diagnosed with coronary artery disease, heart-valve disease, severe hypertension and diabetes," Dr Adel Al Shamari, chief executive of the Zayed Giving Initiative and president of UAE Doctors told The National.
“Workers suffering from such diseases were given medication and will receive free follow-ups at the Saudi German Hospital in Dubai,” he said.
“Most of the cases diagnosed on the first day were related to allergies, respiratory infections, muscle pain, high blood pressure and diabetes,” Dr Al Shamari said.
The mobile hospital includes inpatient units, general clinics, specialist clinics, sonar and electrocardiogram units, a mobile pharmacy and a remote consultation unit.
“It is the largest field and mobile hospital in the country, with doctors specialised in cardiology, community medicine, emergency and general medicine,” Dr Al Shamari said.
The hospital will also implement smart volunteer programmes and organise medical workshops and conferences for doctors and nurses.
“The programme will include lectures on cardiac, chronic and labour diseases and best preventive methods. There will be lectures on first aid and workshops on tolerance, volunteering and community giving,” he said.
The project is part of Rad Al Jamel, an initiative that encourages young Emiratis to volunteer for social work, in collaboration with Sheikh Saud Educational Charitable Foundation, the Zayed Giving Initiative, the General Women's Union, the Dar Al Bir Society, the Sharjah Charity House, the Saudi German Hospitals Group and the Emirates Giving Foundation.
“It’s been a great success. We’ve diagnosed and provided the best treatment to hundreds of patients in RAK,” said Noura Al Suwaidi, director of the General Women’s Union.
“The services will be provided across the country to reach thousands of workers,” she said.
The Ministry of Finance is pursuing mandatory health cover for the Northern Emirates and a draft law will be raised with the Cabinet, but no date of implementation has been announced.
The Dubai Health Authority rolled out a mandatory insurance scheme in 2014 to cover lower-salary employees and their dependents. It completed its final phase in 2016.
This scheme gives children, lower-income employees, non-working residents and domestic staff access to health care at reasonable costs.
The insurance has also been linked to visa-renewal to monitor and ensure compliance with the law.
In Abu Dhabi, employers and sponsors are responsible for providing health insurance to their employees and families.
A basic plan guarantees a cover of up to Dh150,000 for blue-collar workers, with premiums ranging between Dh550 and Dh750 per year.