Thousands of non-citizens in the UAE with chronic illnesses will receive free health care under a deal struck between the Ministry of Health and Novartis.
More than 3,200 patients with limited health insurance or no cover at all will benefit from the agreement with the pharmaceuticals company.
The deal was announced to mark the Year of Zayed and patients will receive up to a year’s worth of free medication or treatment.
“This will be particularly beneficial for cancer patients and those suffering from chronic conditions such as asthma, multiple sclerosis, retinal and blood disorders and psoriasis and whose health insurance is limited," said Dr Amin Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing.
Patients would be referred to the programme by their physician and then assessed for treatment.
“This initiative is effective immediately and ends when all of the 3,210 residents who are in need of medication they could not otherwise afford are receiving treatment," Dr Al Amiri said.
He is hopeful that depending on the need of the patient, pharma companies will consider extending their contribution.
“This initiative is very important to patients who cannot afford their treatment which in turn leads to further complications and a life of misery,” he said.
“By launching this programme, we hope to contribute in reducing their burden and increasing their happiness by improving their health.
"This will also minimise the load on hospitals and the healthcare sector," Dr Al Amiri said.
The move came as the Government of Dubai on Monday announced that Dubai Health Authority would undergo a period of restructuring in the wake of the emirate’s new law to encourage industry growth.
Following the announcement of law number eight to regulate medical services in Dubai, a new Dubai Healthcare Corporation has been announced to enhance patient care.
New laws have been drafted to help the DHA achieve its objectives of ramping up standards, while appealing to medical tourists with improved transparency and pricing structures for private healthcare facilities.
Under new legislation, the DHA will be responsible for overseeing where patients go for specialist care in the UAE and overseas.
The changes have been welcomed by the private sector with NMC Health, one of the largest operators in the region, claiming they will help make Dubai a more attractive destination for medical tourists.
"Dubai is working towards achieving higher goals in the Global Competitive Index by promoting transparency, improving quality of services and products based on international best practices," said Prasanth Manghat, chief executive of NMC.
“Dubai is one of the top global trade and travel destinations, and such strengthening exercises to its healthcare practice will catapult the emirate to become a top global health tourism destination.
“Owing to the enactment of the new law, DHA will ensure the availability of quality medical insurance programmes and improve medical services in accordance to the highest international standards.”
DHC will be responsible for operating and managing public health facilities in Dubai, including primary healthcare centres, specialty centres, medical fitness services centres, public and occupational medical centres.
The new DHC department will also be responsible for managing, operating and developing the units attached to it either directly, or through a third party.
Dubai Health Insurance Corporation, a second new entity, will be responsible for managing and overseeing health insurance services in Dubai according to relevant legislation.
It will also be responsible for licencing and regulating health insurance companies.