Mandatory insurance

Employers and business owners in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will have to provide health insurance for their employees under a scheme to be launched in the first quarter of 2006.

The move follows new legislation which covers all non-UAE nationals and their families who live in Abu Dhabi, according to a report published by WAM.

Employees of companies which have their own licensed medical institutions will be exempt from the provisions of this law, as will non-UAE women married to UAE nationals, children of UAE women married to non- UAE nationals and arrivals on tourist visas.

Under the scheme, the employer will have to insure the employee, his wife and three of his children under 18 years. Sponsors must subscribe to the health insurance scheme for their workers from the date of their arrival in the country.

Residence visas for expatriates will only be issued or renewed after subscription to the insurance scheme.

The compulsory scheme covers medical check-ups and primary healthcare provided at clinics and medical centres, laboratory tests and X-rays, regular dental treatment, excluding artificial structures and orthodontics, medicines and expenses of the insured, including the patient and one companion. Additional services can be added for an extra charge.

Pregnancy and delivery treatment, physical health programmes and spas are not included in the scheme.

Imams join AIDS fight

Religious leaders from Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen have agreed to create a network to combat HIV/AIDS in their countries and produce plans to train hundreds of their colleagues to help fight the pandemic.

The agreement was reached at the end of a fourday workshop held in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in September. It was attended by 44 imams, academics and prominent religious figures. The participants received basic training on how to deal with HIV/AIDS issues and communicate the right messages to the public.

They reviewed awareness-raising materials produced during a December 2004 meeting of both Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Cairo. The network, which will tackle the disease from a faith standpoint, will coordinate with other networks, under the auspices of National AIDS Programmes and the United Nations Development Programme’s HIV/AIDS Regional Programme in the Arab States (HARPAS).

It is expected to become active in 2006. Speaking during the opening of the workshop, Shaykh Yahya Al-Najjar, the Yemeni deputy minister of endowments and religious affairs, emphasised the responsibility religious authorities have in confronting the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, while simultaneously promoting moral and safe behaviour.

New cancer care centre

The American Hospital Dubai (AHD) has set up a new Regional Centre of Excellence for Cancer Care at its Dubai medical campus, United Arab Emirates.

At the heart of the centre is a full-time, dedicated oncology team of two nurses and a pharmacist, led by recently appointed Dr Andre Rizk.

The facility will provide a range of oncology and haematology services for all forms of cancers and blood disorders.

In addition to traditional cancer treatment options of surgery, chemotherapy and palliative care, the centre will offer new therapies including ‘Targeted Therapy’ – a new approach to cancer management which uses drugs to selectively block the growth and spread of the cancer cells.

The Cancer Care Centre focuses on two main areas: screening, diagnosis, treatment and care in the field of oncology; and screening, diagnosis and treatment of blood diseases in the field of haematology. The team will also provide palliative care through a multidisciplinary approach which includes the support of the patient’s family.

Hep C awareness

The majority of the UAE population is unaware of Hepatitis C, a survey by Hoffmann-La Roche reveals.

The survey, conducted by Synovate research, coincided with World Hepatitis C day on October 1 and studied a mix of 330 Emiratis, Arab and Asian expats from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Al Ain. Only 13% of people surveyed had been tested for Hepatitis C.

Only 10% of UAE nationals and 17% of Asians had been tested for the disease. Only 37% of those surveyed believed Hepatitis C was a serious disease.

The survey also indicated a lack of information about the causes and effects of the disease and the available treatment.

Free osteoporosis check

Women in the UAE are being offered free bone density testing for signs of osteoporosis. The free screening is part of the osteoporosis awareness campaign organised by 3B (Better Bone Belt) in the UAE.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) osteoporosis affects one in two post-menopausal women and fractures are experienced by one in three women.

Dr Pierre Delmas, Professor of Medicine in the Department of Rheumatology & Bone Diseases at the Hospital E Herriot in France, said: “A woman’s risk of dying from a hip fracture is equal to her risk of dying from breast cancer.”

Dr Hussein Saadi of Al Ain's Tawam Hospital said recent research showed that osteoporosis is common among Arabic women in the UAE due to Vitamin D deficiency caused by inadequate diet and lack of exposure to the sun. An accurate diagnosis of osteoporosis can be obtained through dual energy x-ray absorptiometry and assessment of risk of having bone fractures is made possible via ultrasound technology.

The disease can be treated through medication and an exercise regimen. The 3B National Alliance for Osteoporosis together with Al Marai is spearheading the 3rd UAE National Osteoporosis Week celebration from 12-17 November 2005.

The celebration is highlighted by free lectures and osteoporosis screening across the UAE and Northern Emirates. For more details and information about the free lectures and free osteoporosis screening during Osteoporosis Week, contact Promax Middle East in Dubai. Tel: 04-282 6411.

Iraqi burn victims

The Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) is to build several new centres to treat burn victims in the main hospitals of Baghdad and other governorates. The units are part of the MoH response to ongoing terrorist attacks in the country.

They will cost US$70 million and take nearly 18 months to complete. “The new centres will be opened in all main hospitals in the country with exception of the Italian hospital, which is supported by the Italian Red Crescent Society and will offer specialised treatment for victims of insurgency attacks countrywide,” Adel Mouhsen, general inspector of the ministry, told IRIN.

The first step will be the inclusion of burn sections with 16 new beds for Yarmouk, al-Wassity and Al- Kerh hospitals and another six for al-Kindy hospital in Baghdad. Similar units will also be opened in Babylon and Kerbala governorates. Mouhsen explained: “We need about 7,000 beds and around 20,000 well trained staff from different specialisations to take care of these units, but since the budget of the ministry is low, the number of additional beds is considered a good increase.”

According to IRIN, the MoH is also planning to build a new facility which will include food safety and health monitoring centres and laboratories for inspection of food and water quality.

Heart health in Beirut

Medical authorities and experts on health issues have hailed the success of “World Heart Day” activities recently held in Beirut, saying that it will contribute to a greater understanding of heart health issues.

One of the challenges of tackling the increase in heart problems in Lebanon lies in patient management, according to Dr George Ghanem, head of the cardiology department at Rizk Hospital, and the president of the Lebanese Society of Cardiology. In particular, there is a low level of understanding of hypertension.

The condition is a contributing factor to a number of health problems within Lebanon, with more than 7% of the population suffering from diabetes, and more than 5,000 people dying of heart disease each year. Doctors in Lebanon are involved in a range of activities designed to help patients manage hypertension in the long-term. For World Heart Day, a number of clinics encouraged free blood pressure testing and check-ups.

Afghan polio initiative

More than 40,000 volunteers were recently deployed across Afghanistan in a three-day polio vaccination campaign. According to an IRIN report, the joint government-United Nations campaign was expected to reach seven million children under the age of five and aimed to make the country polio-free.

Afghanistan is among just six countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The others are: Nigeria, India, Niger, Somalia and Pakistan. The campaign, led by the Health Ministry with support from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), began as health officials confirmed four cases of the disease had been reported this year, the same number in the same period last year.

“The localised nature of the cases – all have been discovered in the southern border provinces – indicates that Afghanistan is winning the battle against the indigenous polio virus thanks to a massive drive that has seen millions of children vaccinated each year in every community in the country,” UNICEF said.

Rheumatology specialist

Dubai Bone and Joint Centre (DBAJ), United Arab Emirates, has appointed a specialist rheumatologist to support a growing need in the region. Dr Humeira Badsha, an American board certified rheumatologist is the newest member of the region’s first sub-specialty musculoskeletal centre. Dr Badsha has more than 10 years’ experience in the treatment of rheumatic conditions.

She has also conducted research, published significant work in the field and has worldwide teaching experience. “The need for greater numbers of rheumatologists to be based in the region was addressed at the Abu Dhabi Rheumatology conference in May this year.

At this event, the GCC and Middle East was identified as having one in 100 sufferers of some form of rheumatic condition, yet the region ranks as one with the least rheumatologists per capita, especially compared with developed world averages,” Dr Badsha pointed out.

Histopathology service

The Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS), Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has begun live production with CoPathPlus, the marketleading anatomic pathology module, from Misys Healthcare Systems.

The DOHMS Histopathology Department processes about 13,500 specimens annually including 7,500 histology cases, 6,000 cytology cases – of which 4,800 are gynaecological cases – and a limited number of peri-natal autopsies through its four hospitals and 20 primary clinics and health centres.

Designed and installed to meet the unique workflow requirements of those departments, CoPathPlus provides comprehensive patient and specimen information viewable in a wide variety of data and graphical formats.

The system incorporates images and diagrammes, and comprises an integrated report writer and a library of more than 200 report options. Other features include histology protocols, SNOMED coding and the ability to integrate with DOHMS mainstream patient record system.

AIDS in Afghanistan

The rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan could cripple the desperately poor country unless urgent prevention and treatment measures are taken, the Afghan health ministry warned this week.

Available data on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan are very limited, although infection rates are thought to be many times higher than the official figure. “We have 41 clinically proven HIV/AIDS cases, however we are estimating between 1,200-1,500 cases across the country,”

Ghulam Sarwar, a national AIDS control programme officer at the Health Ministry told IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Network) in the capital Kabul. While confirming the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan, Sevil Huseynoba, a medical officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Afghanistan said the spread of the disease was being assisted by the movement of refugees and labour migrants, along with long, porous borders.

Low levels of awareness about the disease also fed its spread, Sarwar said. Lack of health education, growing intravenous drug abuse and sex work linked to poverty, were also factors fuelling HIV/AIDS, the health ministry said.

Sarwar noted that assisting those infected was still in its infancy in Afghanistan, pointing to the fact that there was only one Voluntary Confidential Counselling Testing Centre, in Kabul. More such centres are planned for other Afghan cities.

Iraq child mortality

IRIN reports from Baghdad that while the health situation for Iraqi children remains perilous, reports from the Ministry of Health and Environment indicate that the last year has witnessed an important drop in rates of disease among children under five, particularly for cholera and diarrhoea.

“Things are better now especially after we have received aid from international organisations to support child health and to rebuild our health infrastructure,” acting Minister of Health Nermeen Osman told the news organisation.

The health ministry is currently implementing a US$3.5 million programme with help from UNICEF and the WHO to decrease mortality rates among children by the end of 2006, said ministry spokesman Qasem Al-Dulaimi.

The programme began last August and after one year in operation, the ministry reports impressive results but has yet to release numbers.

Breast cancer campaign

In an effort to promote early detection and treatment, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health and Hoffmann-La Roche recently launched a breast cancer awareness campaign spanning the UAE.

The campaign runs until end November, and focuses on providing women with discounted testing facilities, as well as supporting them through education and advice. Commenting on the joint campaign, Hamad Abdul Rahman Al Midfaa, UAE Minister of Health said: “We hope that all women in the UAE over the age of 40 will be motivated to get tested during this campaign. Breast cancer may be life-threatening, but early detection greatly increases the chances of survival”.

Supporting the campaign is the “Two’s Company” initiative, which encourages women to offer each other moral support by having the mammography tests in pairs, at any health centre in the UAE. Once tested, each pair of women can use the mammography receipts to redeem substantial discounts at selected retail outlets across the emirates.

GE Healthcare demonstrated their commitment to breast cancer management by temporarily donating two advanced digital mammography machines, which have been installed at the Mother & Child Centre in Sharjah and the Jumeirah Health Centre in Dubai, for the duration of the campaign.

Private hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain have also shown their commitment by offering a 40%-60% discount on mammography tests during this period.

Dh1.2bn for health facilities

The UAE is investing around Dh1.2 billion (about US$327 million) in the construction of hospitals, clinics and health centres to improve health services in the northern emirates according to the Ministry of Health (MoH).

The various projects involved are all due to be finished by 2008. Hassan Al Keim, Undersecretary of the MoH, said these projects are being developed under the directives of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“When these hospitals are fully operational, patients will no longer have to travel long distances for treatment and the load on Tawam and Mafraq hospitals will be reduced. Some clinics and health centres are also being constructed to replace current ones that are no longer up to standard.”

Outlining the projects, Al Keim said, in Dubai a dental clinic costing Dh8 million will be established in Hor Al Anz and Al Amal psychiatric hospital in Jumeirah will be replaced. In Sharjah, a Dh120 million obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics hospital will be developed as well as health centres in Khor Fakkan and Dhaid.

The primary healthcare centre in Hamriya will be replaced. In Ajman, a hospital will be developed at a cost of Dh18 million and a building for preventive medicine will be constructed as well as a dental clinic.

Up to Dh40 million will also be spent to expand departments at the Shaikh Khalifa Medical Hospital in Ajman. A general hospital with 200 beds and costing about Dh200 million will be developed in Umm Al Quwain.

One of the most expensive projects is a specialised hospital for cancer and heart diseases in Ras Al Khaimah amounting to Dh700 million. An obstetrics and gynaecology department will also be developed at Fujairah hospital at a cost of Dh66 million.

Iraq drug addiction

Khalid Hussein, a 22-yearold university drop-out, is a heroin addict, just like his dad. And with his father’s blessing he sells the drug on the streets of Kerbala to support his family.

“In the beginning I found the idea strange, but today I feel comfortable doing it because at the same time as I’m earning my own money, I’m also using the drug and it helps me forget the terror that has descended on our lives since the foreigners took over our country,” Hussein told IRIN news.

He and his father are among the rising number of Iraqi addicts who also work as dealers to make money and finance their expensive habit. When they can’t sell enough heroin to finance their next fix, many resort to stealing from shops instead. The Ministry of Health has warned that drug abuse is rising steadily among men and women of all ages in Iraq, especially in the capital Baghdad and in the south of the country.

Officials at the Ministry of Interior blame an increasing influx of hard drugs smuggled in from abroad for the rise in consumption. They also say the escalating rebellion by Islamic insurgents has led the government to focus on security issues instead.

Many consumers of heroin and cocaine say they have been traumatised by the increasing cycle of political violence in Iraq as Islamic insurgents step up their fight against the USled coalition which invaded the country in 2003 to depose former president Saddam Hussein.

And drug pushers told IRIN they had found a lucrative market amongst soldiers in the US-led occupation forces. They report strong demand from Italian troops in particular. Many of the foreign troops ask their counterparts in the Iraqi security forces to buy on the street for them, they added. Business is booming as heroin from Afghanistan filters easily through the porous frontier with neighbouring Iran and cocaine trickles in from Turkey.

There has a huge increase in the consumption of drugs since last year,” said Kamel Ali, director of the Ministry of Health’s drug control programme. “The numbers have doubled. In most cases the users are youths who have become addicted and are now working as drug dealers under pressure from the traffickers in order to keep themselves supplied,” he said.

According to Ali, the number of registered addicts in suburban Baghdad has more than doubled over the past year, rising to over 7,000 from 3,000 in 2004. In Kerbala, meanwhile, the number of registered addicts has tripled, he said. The city now has 1,200 known drug users, up from 400 a year ago. The problem gets worse, he said, the closer you get to the Iranian border.

Yemen polio

The number of confirmed polio cases recorded in Yemen this year has risen to 471, but following a crash immunization drive the outbreak has been brought under control, Hashim al- Zain, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in the country, told IRIN.

Doctor al-Zain said on 5 October that 23 more suspected cases of polio had been confirmed over the past three weeks. But he stressed that no new suspected cases of polio had been detected since mid-August and that following three emergency vaccination campaigns the outbreak had been brought under control.

“The number of confirmed cases of polio, as of 5 October, was 471,” al- Zain said, noting that the last suspected case to be confirmed had been detected in mid-August. “It is a good achievement that we have managed to control the disease in around four months,” he added. The WHO declared Yemen free of polio in 1996 and child immunization in the country subsequently became less thorough, so when a new outbreak of the disease was confirmed in April this year it spread rapidly.

The outbreak began in the Red Sea port of Hodeida and 45% of all polio cases detected since then have been in Hodeida and the surrounding district. Health officials believe that polio was reintroduced to Yemen by travellers from Africa, where the virus is still endemic in Nigeria, Niger and Egypt.  

irectory will provide access to around 5,000 DOHMS-registered medical service providers, including 1,200 public and private clinics and hospitals. In the alphabetical and classified sections, the directory will list practitioners, doctors, polyclinics, speciality clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, laboratories, medical equipment suppliers, medical service providers and companies engaged in work for the medical sector.

A profile section will feature full-page descriptions of medical companies, specific medicines and medical practitioners. The hardbound volume will also include maps to highlight locations of prominent medical institutions. DOHMS directory will be distributed across the GCC. The directory will also be produced as a CD-ROM and will be available online next year.


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