x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Doctors without licence exploit loophole

Health Authority-Abu Dhabi warns that anyone caught without a licence faces a lifelong ban from practising medicine in the UAE.

ABU DHABI // Unqualified staff are working as doctors and dentists by exploiting Abu Dhabi's two-stage licensing system.

They obtain a licence from the Ministry of Labour for a job such as nursing assistant or beautician, then practise medicine without obtaining the necessary second licence from the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad).

Some have even been refused a health authority licence but continue practising anyway.

A cosmetic surgery clinic in Al Ain, Cosmo Health Medical Polyclinics, was shut down after health authority auditors found unlicensed doctors and dentists. One employee had been carrying out laser hair-removal treatments, despite being licensed to work only as a beautician.

The ministry and the health authority have now begun a review of the licensing process to address the issue.

"The communication has been started and there are going to be meetings and discussions … to try to find a mechanism to control how licences are issued," said Dr Mohammed Bader Al Seiari, director of the authority's health system compliance division.

With a wide range of work licences tied to health care, some people believe they can bypass the process of applying for a health-authority licence entirely, Dr Al Seiari said.

"They do stages one, two, three and four - which includes their ability to get a licence from the ministry - but there are still stages five, six and seven which require them to go to Haad to obtain the final licence, and that is never done.

"People start to use alternative, semi-legal titles, so when they are caught, government organisations get stuck on what to do."

Dr Al Seiari said those found to be working without the proper licence generally fall into three categories.

"There are people who know they will not pass, because they are not qualified to fulfil the requirements of Haad - while some of them have tried and failed.

"The last category are people who are in the process of waiting for their licence to be issued, but because of the security clearance and other clearances it takes time, so they start practising, saying, 'Why should I wait?'"

Anyone caught without a licence faces a lifelong ban from practising medicine in the UAE. "We are usually hard on this. We usually try to blacklist. This means people cannot practise, register or even be considered to work in any medical field, regardless of their job," Dr Al Seiari said.

"We communicate this to the MoH and to the GCC to make sure they are aware of it."

Dr Al Seiari said those found to be working without a proper licence generally fall into three categories.

“There are people who know they will not pass, because they are not qualified to fulfil the requirements of Haad – while some of them have tried and failed.

“The last category are people who are in the process of waiting for their licence to be issued, but because of the security clearance and other clearances it takes time, so they start practising, saying, ‘Why should I wait?’”

Anyone caught without a licence faces a lifelong ban from practising medicine in the UAE.

“We are usually hard on this. We usually try to blacklist. This means people cannot practise, register or even be considered to work in any medical field, regardless of their job,” said Dr Al Seiari. “We communicate this to the MoH and the GCC to make sure they are aware of it.”

zalhassani@thenational.ae