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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

UAE Cabinet announces sweeping changes to healthcare

A restriction to the size of fizzy drinks allowed to be sold was one of a raft of changes to the nation’s health treatment and programmes decided by the UAE Cabinet.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, discusses proposals with Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, at the second day of the Cabinet retreat at Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, where major health reforms were announced yesterday.  Wam
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, discusses proposals with Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, at the second day of the Cabinet retreat at Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, where major health reforms were announced yesterday. Wam

ABU DHABI // The second day of the Cabinet’s retreat has ended with the announcement of wide changes to the nation’s health treatment and programmes.

Among the decisions was a restriction to the size of fizzy drinks allowed to be sold, in the nation’s battle against the increasing problem of obesity, which can lead to further health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the “brainstorming session” at Sir Bani Yas Island produced other reforms including:

Screening: comprehensive health testing programmes for Emiratis at set intervals, and earlier screening for cancer to allow more effective and successful treatment, as well as establishing a national cancer registry.

Accreditation: statewide certification for doctors.

Integration: a national health database, allowing easier access to patient information between hospitals and clinics.

Evaluation: introducing unified national standards and a system for assessing healthcare centres, the results of which will be made public.

Members of the public tweeted and emailed thousands of suggestions for health-system changes, which experts and ministers reviewed on Monday.

A similar session on Sunday produced a raft of changes to education.

“Developing health services is a priority for the Government,” said Sheikh Mohammed on Monday.

“The health of our citizens cannot be measured with money, and treatment, wherever it is, is their right.”

The sessions followed a call by the Prime Minister for members of the public to send in complaints or suggestions as to how the nation’s health system could be improved.

The issues of cancer and routine check-ups for Emiratis had also been raised in the Federal National Council, as members asked why cancer was on the rise in the UAE.

Among the other announcements on Monday was an e-healthcare programme, with mobile health services to serve those in remote areas or patients with reduced mobility, particularly the elderly.

Setting out a professional structure and career paths in the government health sector will be aimed at making the profession more attractive, while incentives will be announced to attract more Emiratis to nursing.

For their part, doctors will have to take part in continuous professional education, which will partly be provided by a new, world-class technical centre.

Partnerships are to be formed with universities to set up centres for research and development.

Officials on Monday split into five groups to discuss the quality of service, developing specialised care, raising the efficiency and competency of healthcare staff, making the career more attractive and ways to limit the spread of disease.

During discussions, videos sent in by Emiratis and residents on health services were viewed.

Sheikh Mohammed joined each group, posing questions to experts before decisions were finalised.

After the session he thanked nationals and expatriates for their ideas, which he said helped to ensure the success of the retreat.

“The first brainstorming [retreat] was in 2007 in a small hall at Bab Al Shams,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “The Government was in its early stages, the challenges in front of us were great.

“Some also questioned our success, and today we stand together in this retreat after six years only. And we have achieved a great deal, with you as a working team and with thousands of other work-teams in the government.”

Although the retreat has ended, ideas from the public will be accepted year-round.

Sheikh Mohammed added that providing better health services was a joint effort between the federal and local government and the private sector.

The first day of the retreat examined the education sector in the UAE.

After that session, a raft of decisions were made to try to improve education.

They included scrapping the preparatory year at university and developing subjects at secondary school level to match university requirements; eliminating the need for students to choose between science and arts streams early in secondary school; and introducing a licensing system for teachers.

More decisions are expected to come after field tests and other in-depth studies.

osalem@thenational.ae