Abu Dhabi: The standards of primary health care are set to see a boost in the emirate of Abu Dhabi following a new set of regulations announced on Wednesday by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi.
From 2018, the health sector regulator will no longer issue any new licences for clinics that provide only general health-care services. Instead, primary health care will be provided by licensed family medicine departments and clinics, which will be able to better guide the care of patients while reducing the burden on specialist and emergency medical services.
Health-care facilities that wish to provide family medicine and primary health care under the new standards will have to be licensed first by the department. December 2018 has been set as the deadline for primary care providers to acquire the required licences and adopt the new standards.
“About 1,200 facilities currently provide some level of primary health care in the emirate, and we have already licensed 45 under the new care standards. These facilities provide advanced levels of treatment led by a specialist or consultant, and they can guide patients towards receiving the best care,” Paul Hetherington, acting director of investment and capacity management, told Gulf News.
While at first they may not signal a significant shift in patient behaviour, the new standards are expected to make family medicine more attractive and accessible, the official explained.
“At present, patients approach specialists for basic concerns, and this places an unnecessary burden on the health-care system. For example, a headache may not be related to neurology but patients often seek out a neurologist for it. They may then undergo medical investigation without really being able to get to the root of the trouble. On the other hand, an experienced family medicine physician would be able to suggest the right course of treatment to seek,” Hetherington said.
In addition, there are now up to 60 stand-alone clinics that provide only general health care from general practitioners. These will have to employ a specialist or consultant to lead the care in order to comply with the updated primary care regulations.
“Our newly adopted primary care standards are more patient-centric, and will ensure that residents receive the highest quality of care,” said Mohammad Al Hameli, acting undersecretary at the department.
General health care will still, however, be provided at construction worksites, hotels, schools, sport and social clubs and workplaces.
“All facilities managed by [public health provider] Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) now provide family medicine at the required standards. The eventual aim is to have a licensed family medicine care provider within each precinct in Abu Dhabi,” Hetherington said.