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Only 16.5% of Dubai’s inhabitants are native Emiratis, the rest of the population is made up of large expat communities. Nearly all have come to Dubai to work and to do business.

To work in The UAE employees will be entering the country on a work visa sponsored by their employers. Employers are also responsible for providing medical cover for staff.

The [Dubai Health Insurance Law No. 11] Law came into effect on 1 January 2014. The roll out phase also states that dependents of sponsors, including domestic workers, must also be covered for the basic health coverage by 30 June 2016.

The schemes for both nationals and residents will, at a minimum, cover general practitioner visits, emergency treatments, referrals to specialists as well as surgical, investigative and maternity procedures.

This is clearly insufficient for someone who is a full time resident in Dubai, for individuals who work in high risk environments and those in need of specialised treatments. It also doesn't allow sufficient cover those who need extended care, or those who find themselves a victim of substandard hospital treatment.

In these instances, the employee has little to no protection.

The main industry for foreign companies in The UAE is oil, a notoriously dangerous industry. Workers in fields such as this need to know not only that they will receive the quality care they need in the case of illness or injury, but that they will have unbiased recourse in the event of medical negligence.

Failure by employers to provide insurance carries fines of between Dh500 and Dh150,000. Repeated breaches carry a maximum fine of Dh 500,000 which should offer reasonable amount of protection to individuals.

However, these laws and their enforcement ultimately mean very little if the quality of care is substandard and if patients do not have recourse to an unbiased settlement when negligence or malpractice occurs.

Processes for dealing with malpractice cases within The UAE offer little or no protection. Investigations are held in private and the decisions made are not open to challenge. The current system is opaque to the point that individuals have no idea of what evidence has been considered, nor how the decision has been reached..

In statement, Radha Stirling, managing partner of UK Legal firm Stirling and Haigh says “It is therefore in the interests of international companies to support new regulations in the UAE that would allow for unbiased review of negligence cases, with independent evaluation of claims by a body with no vested interests; to ensure that claims are taken seriously and resolved justly.”

Employees should take extra time to check their contracts and find out what extra provisions their employers will offer should a medical negligence situation arise.

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