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Thu 25 Oct 2007 04:37 PM

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Health tourists being ripped off by doctors

UAE residents abroad wrongly advised, undergo unnecessary procedures, doctor says.

Unscrupulous doctors are ripping off UAE health tourists by making them undergo unnecessary and expensive treatments, a leading doctor warned on Thursday.

Klaus Kallmayer, Chairman of the German Heart Centre (GHC) in Dubai, said many residents that go aboard for medical treatment are wrongly diagnosed and advised to have invasive procedures done.

“In our experience it appears many hospitals are carrying out the maximum number of high-tech examinations within a short period of time, sometimes without a clear medical indication,” Kallmayer said in a statement.

“...many of the patients [that come back from having treatment aboard] are seeking out our help as they do not understand the results of their foreign examinations, which have not been clearly explained to them.”

Kallmayer also said patients could be putting themselves at risk by flying to the places like Southeast Asia and Europe for treatment.

“...when it comes to serious medical disorders, especially those that can deteriorate into an acute illness or life-threatening emergency, flying abroad can quickly turn into a menace,” he said.

“From experience, many Emiratis believe that, even in the case of an emergency, they can fly out to Thailand or Europe and undergo treatment there. This is a deadly misconception.”

Kallmayer’s comments come in response to a report earlier this month by UAE daily Gulf News that almost 70,000 Emiratis travelled to Thailand for medical treatment last year, an increase of over 40% from 2005.

UAE ambassador to Thailand Salim Al Za’abi told the newspaper that the reason for the dramatic rise was distrust and dissatisfaction with the UAE healthcare system.

Kallmayer defended the UAE healthcare system, but admitted not all medical providers are up to standard, calling on those that are not to “leave the market”.

Kallmayer also called on the government to discourage health tourism by setting minimum standards for medical insurance and by monitoring the performance of medical providers, stating that it has a negative impact on the UAE healthcare market.

“Medical tourism has a negative impact on the quality of medical care, both for an individual and on a national level, and should be discouraged by the government...,” he said.

The Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday said the UAE healthcare market is set to grow to $11.9 billion by 2015, up from $3.2 billion in 2005.

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