Expat’s Guide to Health Care in Abu Dhabi

10th January 2020

Here at Cadogan Tate we have helped many expats with their move to Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates, and we can fully understand why it is such a popular part of the world to live in. A thriving economy and a constant need for English-speaking workers makes Abu Dhabi highly attractive to British expats. Another excellent reason to consider moving to the UAE is the health care. In this article, we explore the excellent options available to expats and workers in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi, and neighbouring Dubai, have a reputation for being an expensive place to live and visit. However, as of December 2019, Abu Dhabi is the 55th most expensive city in the world, according to Expatsian.com, making it cheaper than New York City, Paris, Hong Kong and even Brighton. For British expats moving to Abu Dhabi, paying for health care is one less thing to worry about.

Medical Insurance in Abu Dhabi

It is a legal requirement for all residents to have access to state funded medical assistance for the employee and their family (1 spouse and 3 children under 18 years). Employers must cover a minimum level of health insurance; however, it is advised that this is topped up by the employee to include a more comprehensive level of service.
Because of how the insurance-based health care system works, residents of Abu Dhabi need to pay for their own medication or procedures and then claim the cost back on the insurance. This means that any receipts for prescriptions and medication must be kept safe. Over-the-counter drugs that may seem common-place in the UK (such as sleeping pills) are heavily regulated in the UAE, so a prescription is needed for most kinds of drugs.
Not only is emergency health care provided for residents working in Abu Dhabi, but it is also available for visitors to the area. Meaning that if your family or friends come over to visit you and they need medical attention, they can get it without facing a large bill.
With Abu Dhabi being an international city, most doctors and other healthcare professionals speak very good English, meaning language barriers should not pose a problem for English speakers.

Health Care Facilities

The state-funded facilities, overseen by the highly regarded Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), are very well equipped and staffed. However, there is a growing number of private facilities that offer state-of-the-art facilities for those that do not mind paying a little extra money for better facilities and shorter waiting times.
In 2018, a study by Bloomberg announced the UAE as having the 10th most efficient health service in the world, placing it above Norway, Switzerland and Sweden. The study also named the UAE as having one of the lowest relative costs for health care in the world. An article published by GulfNews states that a prostate procedure, that would usually cost Dh39,000 in the US or Dh32,000 in the UK, would cost between Dh15,000 and Dh29,000 in Abu Dhabi. This means that residents of Abu Dhabi are paying less for a better level of care. The article also suggests that the lower cost of procedures is because of lower overheads incurred by hospitals such as land and property prices and utilities.
Many of the public hospitals and medical centres are owned by the Seha Group (the corporate marketing name for the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company). The Seha website has a lot of useful information, but most notably it has a service that will help you find a health care professional in Abu Dhabi. The simple to use tool allows you to filter by speciality, languages spoken and location.
Amongst the hospitals and health centres in Abu Dhabi is Ahalia Hospital Mussafah. This hospital started life as a small GP clinic in 1984 and has grown in size and stature ever since. The Ahalia Group now comprises two multi-specialty hospitals, 20 satellite medical centres in the wider areas of the UAE, a line of ophthalmology centres and 35 Pharmacies.

Obtaining a Work and Residence Visa in Abu Dhabi

For an expat to get a work and residence visa in Abu Dhabi and UAE, they must be tested for, and be free from, all forms of communicable diseases such as Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. Female workers must also provide a negative pregnancy test prior to gaining a visa. An expat must also test negative for Hepatitis B and Syphilis if they will be working in one of the following job roles:

  • Nursery worker
  • Food handler
  • Salon, beauty centre or health club
  • Housemaid or nanny

The residence visa medical check-up procedure costs 250AED (around £51 at time of writing) and is carried out at five approved medical centres within Abu Dhabi. The full list of approved medical centres that offer the visa medical check and a guide to the process can be found here.

Use of Tobacco

The government takes health care seriously in Abu Dhabi and the wider Emirates. The UAE government has set strict goals and targets to improve the health of residents. A prime example of this is the use of tobacco. The Emirate of Sharjah has banned all kinds of smoking in public areas (including shisha). Whereas, Dubai has banned the smoking of shisha in all public recreational areas (such as parks, beaches and squares). It is widely expected that Abu Dhabi will also see a smoking ban in the next few years. This is a part of the UAE government’s aim to reduce tobacco consumption from 21.6% to 15.7% among men and from 1.9% to 1.66% among women by 2021.p>

Moving to Abu Dhabi

The UAE government takes pride in ensuring the health of everyone that lives in the Emirates, whether they were born there or are one of the many foreign-nationals that are welcomed into the area for work.
If you are planning on moving to Abu Dhabi you should expect to go through some medical screening and complete the necessary paperwork. All of this extra work is worth it for entry into one of the most highly regarded expat havens in the world. Do not forget that the team at Cadogan Tate are experts in helping people, such as yourself, move to Abu Dhabi. For more information on our international removals service, click here.


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