x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Rehabilitation services in the UAE are inadequate, officials say

Rehabilitation services in the UAE are inadequate and lagging behind international standards, experts say.

ABU DHABI // Rehabilitation services in the UAE are lagging behind international standards because of a shortage of experts in the field, medical officials have warned.

The number of people working in the field needs to be doubled with an emphasis on specialised services to give the best possible care to patients, said Dr Sabahat Asim Wasti, a consultant in rehabilitation at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

Dr Wasti described rehabilitation offerings across the UAE as inadequate as he made a presentation at the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress yesterday.

“We are not complying to international standards,” he said, addressing delegates attending the Rehabilitation Services in the UAE session at the Middle East Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Conference.

“There is a high demand for rehabilitation services. People who have, for example, developed a weakness in the arm after a stroke, or lost the ability to speak after a traumatic brain injury or a child who is born with a neurological disability. In order for rehabilitation to be provided efficiently we need people who are trained in different spectrums: physical therapy, speech therapy, cognitive rehabilitation, occupational therapy, and specialist nurses in rehabilitation.

“But all of these are in shortfall at the moment. Numbers on the ground are very limited.”

Dr Wasti said a lack of training homegrown talent is contributing to the shortfall.

“We are heavily dependent on exporting the talent from outside the UAE,” he said. “The training opportunities in the UAE are limited and need to improve.”

Another issue is a lack of proper regulation to ensure those working in the rehabilitation field are meeting international standards, he said.

Dr Wasti estimated that about 500 medical professionals are working in the rehabilitation sector in Abu Dhabi, mostly physiotherapists.

“We need to double that pretty quickly if not quadruple it,” said Dr Wasti.

Raafat Fathy Ramzy, of the Heath Authority Abu Dhabi, agreed that more professionals were needed in the field.

“We are very understaffed, especially in the private sector,” he said.

Mr Ramzy said a shortage of medical professionals could compromise the quality of care received by patients in rehabilitation.

Dr Yousif Alnuaimi, of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Zayed Military Hospital, Abu Dhabi, also highlighted the problem of a shortage of rehabilitation provisions.

He welcomed plans to build the Dh596 million Abu Dhabi Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Khalifa City A which will have space for about 150 beds. The Abu Dhabi Executive Council has just approved the tender to build the centre.

The congress will continue Monday and conclude on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

jbell@thenational.ae