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Tue 2 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Transplant patients suffer location-lotto

EXCLUSIVE: Expatriate renal patients are being forced to remain on dialysis because of a location lottery in the funding of transplant care, Medical Times has learnt.

EXCLUSIVE:Expatriate renal patients are being forced to remain on dialysis because of a location lottery in the funding of transplant care, Medical Times has learnt.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) offers all patients with kidney failure free dialysis as long as they have a valid residency and healthcare cover.

The policy ensures dialysis is available to both nationals and expatriates because many health insurance schemes do not to cover the condition.

But when it comes to kidney transplants funding depends on where a patient lives. Each emirate offers different levels of financial assistance to its expatriate patients, according to renal physicians.

Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) offers both nationals and expatriates with renal failure free transplants, including work-up and follow up care for as long as necessary, a HAAD official confirmed.

However, expatriate patients in Dubai only get the cost of their transplant covered if they have been on dialysis first. In Sharjah the full cost of care has to be paid by the patient.

The situation has come to light following an exclusive report in November's MT that revealed up to 40 patients from the UAE were traveling to Asia each year to buy illegal organs.

"Everyone gets dialysis free everywhere, but if they have a transplant then it's not so clear. There's no wonder people go to the Philippines or India for cheaper transplants," said Dr Mustafa Ahmed, a consultant nephrologist at Welcare Hospital in Dubai.

The situation left many expatriate patients from poorer countries on dialysis for years, added Dr Iman Akhtarul, a nephrologist at Al Quassimi Hospital, Sharjah.

"Those who can not afford it do not go for transplant. A lot of people stay on dialysis, some people for 10 years, just because it's free," he revealed.

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