Charity may be its own reward, but it is still worthy of public recognition. The volunteers and donors behind The Emirates National Mobile Medical Care Hospital deserve every bit of praise and publicity for reaching out to those for whom medical care is not readily available. Their work addresses gaps within the country's public health system, but also highlights the needs that remain. During their inaugural visit to Musaffah in Abu Dhabi, the mobile hospital treated 500 labourers in only three days. The hospital will continue its work there for the next three weeks. Since the charity did not publicise its presence in the camps, the number of people who seek its treatment is likely to grow as the news of its work spreads.
If the number of patients who visited the mobile care unit in Musaffah is an indication, a significant number of low-wage workers, who are supposed to have health insurance, are not having their basic medical needs met. As we reported yesterday, preventable - or at least treatable - conditions such as hypertension, were prevalent among patients receiving care at the mobile unit in Musaffah. These men should be able to seek treatment in permanent hospitals or at clinics - that is why the universal health insurance scheme was created. If they cannot reach a clinic, one should be built nearer to them. If they cannot afford to see a doctor, then the cost of a hospital visit must be re-examined. If their insurance does not cover them or they do not have insurance, we must ask: why not?
Filing these gaps should not be the Government's burden alone. The companies that benefit from the contributions of these workers must also realise the benefit and the obligation of keeping their workforce healthy. The Government too must appreciate the benefits of treating illnesses early. It is far less expensive to manage the symptoms of diabetes at their onset than to deal with the consequences of undiagnosed diabetes. Blood pressure medication is cheap; the dialysis needed to deal with renal failure is not.
Meanwhile, something must be done to ensure that workers are eating properly. That many are given supplements for being undernourished is worrying, and the prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure among labourers points to poor eating habits. Both a public health system and the health of a human being require constant maintenance and the occasional check-up to ensure that they function properly. And for both, the first step to treat a problem is understanding that one exists.