x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Capital lacks specialists due to lower demand

Agencies argue for primary care, saying UAE elder population is small.

Less than 1 per cent of the population in Abu Dhabi is 65 or older, meaning there is little need for geriatric intervention programmes at present.

"These low levels are largely a reflection of the rapid recent population growth within the emirate and the high proportion of working expatriate residents," said Paul Hetherington, head of planning at the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad).

When asked about the number of geriatricians in the emirate, officials said the field was "not a common subspeciality".

"It is only available in the North American model, where there are nursing home services," said Dr Hatem Al Ameri, section head of health professional licensing at Haad. "In most parts of the world, including the US, taking care of the elderly is done by family and internal medicine physicians, who also act as primary care physicians.

"We have no geriatric care like the model in the US and Canada, but more of primary care specialities."

There are no home care services offered directly by Haad, but the authority regulates and sets the standards of operation for these services. There are 25 facilities offering home health care in the emirate, including Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Al Noor Hospital and the New Medical Centre Specialty Hospital.

Geriatric care is fully covered for Emiratis by Thiqa but expatriates' health coverage is dependent on their insurance.

"The elderly are more likely to be affected by heart disease, diseases of the circulatory system, cancers, mental health issues, diabetes and endocrine disorders," Mr Hetherington said. "Haad is working with providers and insurers to ensure coverage in these areas continues to meet demand."

mismail@thenational.ae