By Joanne Bladd
The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health has announced plans to offer alternative medicine in its hospitals.
The UAE Ministry of Health has announced plans to offer alternative medicine in its hospitals. In an interview with a regional paper, Dr Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Ghafoor Al Hawi, assistant undersecretary for curative medicine said, "Alternative medicine is developing fast and has proved to complement regular medicine." As a first step in legitimising treatments, he added, the authority has licensed the country's first ozone oxygen therapists.
Worryingly for my line of work, words fail me. The dust has barely settled behind the herd of doctors exiting Ministry hospitals over pay disputes and now the authority is funding placebos on prescription. While I am broadly supportive to the idea of privately funded complementary therapies - your money, your choice - the idea of the Ministry's limited pot of cash currently being squandered on anything other than staff, equipment and treatment is scandalous.
The body of evidence behind these therapies is minimal (proving that, in the field of complementary medicine, you don't have to be big to be clever) and, as the flurry of public-private partnerships shows, the government has enough difficulty funding the essentials.
Put simply, when the UAE is still in the planning stages of something as basic as national screening programmes, its stretched coffers should be spent on the basis of cold, hard, life-saving facts.
The minefield of licensing alternative therapies is another matter. Currently, clinicians wishing to practise in the UAE have to prove their skills in front of a panel of peers. Leaving aside the question of how to source a board of ‘expert' ozone therapists (the mind boggles), what guidelines would dictate the approval process before therapists were let loose on patients?
Physicians in the public sector are struggling with more patients, higher costs and more demands on their time. In fact, the only thing not on an upward trend is the pay scales. Unless the authority plans to offer employees complimentary acupuncture alongside its undersized wage packets, there are better uses for its budget.