In the United Arab Emirates healthcare is quite advanced and standards are generally considered high by the rest of the world. In addition to having state of the art facilities, residents enjoy free or reduced cost access to medical care.
As an Expat
If you are an expat on extended stay in Dubai, you will have to apply for a health card from the Department of health should you want to use public facilities. Other options include using private hospitals and either paying out of pocket or using your personal medical insurance.
Just recently, compulsory insurance laws have been passed that state everyone must have some type of medical insurance, either privately obtained or through an employer.
There is some local concern about the disparity in pricing from one facility to the next, and while the government is working on ways to close the gaps, you should know they exist. A lot of the pricing differences comes down to location of the office, quality of ambiance (how nice is the location) and the expertise or experience of the staff.
It will surprise many who are familiar with the way western medicine works to learn you do not need a referral to see a specialist. In Dubai, you simply make an appointment with the specialist of your choice. Of course, many will still see their regular doctor first for recommendations on the best specialist for their particular problem but it is not a requirement.
Dental care in the UAE is expensive if you have no dental coverage. Many expatriates will wait until they make a visit home before dealing with dental problems. However, if you know you will be in the country for a long period of time, it may be best to seek private insurance that offers a dental benefit as traveling home might not be cost effective.
Latifa Hospital is reportedly one of the best for maternity care in Dubai and is a public or government run facility. It is important for expecting mothers to register at the facility of their choosing by no later than the 7th month of pregnancy. If you plan to utilize the public option, you will need a marriage license (you cannot give birth in Dubai if you are unmarried), passports for you and your spouse and a health card. It should be reiterated that they are quite serious on this point. Unwed mothers in the UAE, expatriate or not, are not allowed to give birth inside the country and those who do have been arrested and sent to prison.
Dubai and the UAE as a whole have come a long way in a short amount of time when it comes to healthcare for the people. As with most places around the world, there are places where the current system can be improved upon, particularly when it comes to pre-existing conditions, long wait times and expensive medications. Thankfully, they are working to address the problems in the system while ensuring the people have access to great care.