x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Free monthly health clinics opened by Pakistani doctors

Free health clinics will be open to Dubai's Pakistani community once a month as the result of a successful trial run.

DUBAI // People will be able to receive medical care once a month at a new free clinic set up by the Pakistani community. The Pakistan Association of Dubai will host the clinic at its headquarters in Bur Dubai on the last Friday of every month. The move follows a successful trial run last month. More than 100 people, well over a third of them labourers, were treated by the volunteer doctors and nurses. One of the doctors involved in the free clinic, Dr Zia ul Hassan, president of the Pakistan Doctors' Wing, said: "We give advice and guidance if somebody has a medical problem. That is what we want to do, in case someone wants information and has a problem and doesn't know what to do." Anyone, not just Paksitanis, will be able take advantage of the service. "Being a medical practice it cannot be limited to anyone. There are no restrictions as to who can come," said Dr ul Hassan. But he added: "We have our limitations in terms of offering treatments for diagnosis. People came from the labour camps who would otherwise find it difficult to get advice for a number of reasons, including time. They are usually working."

Last week, medical experts warned that illegal medical practitioners were giving poor advice and expired medicines at labour camps. A labourer without health insurance would currently pay between Dh100 (US$27) and Dh400 for a consultation with a GP at a private clinic. The cost of any tests and medications would be extra. Some companies have agreements with clinics that might lower the consultation fee to about Dh50, which can be covered by the company itself or the worker. However, many companies do not have such deals, forcing many low-paid workers seek alternative care. About 40 people, including doctors and nurses from various countries, volunteered at the free clinic's trial run, including a dentist, paediatrician, orthopaedic surgeon and an internist.

"We had a very good turnout. We are now thinking to limit that number so we could take our turns and make it more doable. I hope we are going to be less doctors this time and more patients," said Dr ul Hassan. The wing, which is part of which is part of the city's Pakistan Association, will try to ensure that Paksitanis labourers know about the clinic. They are putting up posters in the camps and plan to have announcements made at Friday prayers. "The number of people who attended last time was overwhelming. Doctors and nurses felt good about it. Usually we do our own jobs and go home. This is an opportunity to help the community," said the doctor.

The group may also hold lectures on health issues that affect many Pakistanis in the UAE, such as diabetes, poor diet and hypertension. One thing the free clinic is in real need of, however, is an opthomologist. "What we didn't have was an eye doctor," Dr ul Hassan said, "and people kept on asking."

asafdar@thenational.ae