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Healthcare is regarded as one of the fastest growing sectors in the Middle East. Healthcare spend in the GCC in 2011 was estimated to be $46.12bn and this is expected to reach $133.19bn in 2018, due to a rising population, an increase in lifestyle diseases and deeper insurance penetration.
There are numerous high profile healthcare projects being built across the region, both by governments and by private foreign healthcare investors, with big names like Cleveland Clinic and King’s College London, joining companies already established in the market, including Johns Hopkins, Imperial College London, Cornell University and Moorfield’s.
Whether working within a Government or a private hospital, Doctors moving to the Gulf region will have the opportunity to work alongside a truly global workforce in state of the art facilities, with the latest technologies and without budgetary constraints. There are also opportunities to bring new skills and experience to the market, shaping healthcare expectations in this fast developing region.
Standards are remarkably high for such a fast developing sector, with the majority of hospitals JCI Accredited, or at least working towards JCI Accreditation. The Middle East has changed enormously over the last 50 years and continues to do so. The healthcare sector is integral to the regions continuing growth and development, and the investment being made
clearly reflects this.
What opportunities are there?
The majority of opportunities in the Gulf are at Consultant level, working in hospitals or specialist clinics, both government and private. The qualifications and experience needed to practise as a Consultant depends on where you did your training. If specialist training was done in the UK (a Tier 1 country) you need to have 2 years post-CCT experience to work as a Consultant. Tier 2 countries require 8 years’ experience post specialisation.
Due to the Middle Eastern culture of self-referral there has been a lack of opportunities for GPs, but this is starting to change. The Ministries of Health in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have all put policies in place to massively increase their primary healthcare offerings, which should see a growth in opportunities for overseas GPs in the near future.
Unfortunately there are no real opportunities for Junior Doctors to go to the Gulf. There are only a few training hospitals and they are focussed on training local physicians, not offering places for overseas graduates. Also, Consultant-led care is the norm across the region, further limiting opportunities.
Registration & Immigration
The process of obtaining medical registration in the Gulf will vary depending on the country you decide to work in (and in the UAE, the emirate you are employed in will also affect the process). Gaining licensure will involve a number of steps that may involve assessments, background checks, certificates of good standing and a required number of years of practise depending on your specialisation. Generally speaking, you must hold a medical qualification listed from a medical school listed in the International Medical Education Directory of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research.
Similarly, visa application processes vary by country, but generally speaking once a job offer has been made the prospective employer will play a large part in helping you obtain the relevant employment / residence visa. For further information it is
best to contact your Workplace Doctors Recruitment Specialist who will be able to provide you with details relevant to your desired location.
The links below also provide useful guidance on some of the requirements stipulated by the different countries in the Gulf region:
Qatar Supreme Council of Health
UAE Ministry of Health
Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health
Kuwait Ministry of Health
Cultural Awareness / Etiquette
Although the Middle East is a large expanse of geography with a variety of countries and customs, noting the following general points of etiquette can be useful when dealing with people who have been raised according to the traditions of the Middle East:
- It is best to avoid discussions about religion and the politics of the Middle East. Always bear in mind that you are expected to behave in a way that fits in with your fellow residents.
- As a general rule, women’s clothing should cover the tops of the arms and legs.Anything that is revealing should be kept to the privacy of your home.
- Public displays of affection between people of the opposite gender, including married couples, are generally frowned upon. This can include activities as minor as hand-holding.
- Displaying the sole of one’s foot or touching somebody with one’s shoe is often considered rude. This includes sitting with one’s feet or foot elevated. In some circumstances, shoes should be removed before entering a living room.
- Many in the Middle East do not separate professional and personal life. Doing business revolves much more around personal relationships, family ties, trust and honor. There is a tendency to prioritize personal matters above all else. It is therefore crucial that business relationships are built on mutual friendship and trust.
- Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day, therefore daily routines, appointments and meetings must be fitted in appropriately around prayer times. Friday is the day for congregational prayers and it is obligatory for all males to attend.
- The traditional Islamic greeting you will hear is ‘Asalamu alaykum’ (peace be with you). As a non-Muslim you would not be expected to use it, but if you did you would receive the reply ‘wa alaykum salam’ (and peace be with you).
- The roles of men and women are far more defined in the Arab culture and interaction between the sexes is still frowned upon in certain arenas.If you are introduced to a woman as a male, it is advisable to wait and see if a hand is extended. If it is not, then do not try to shake hands. Avoid touching and prolonged eye contact with women.
- Never refuse refreshments offered, as this will be taken as an insult to your host. Once you have received your refreshment, you may however just take a sip and leave the rest in the glass or cup. Generally speaking, sweet black tea with fresh mint, small glasses of fragrant coffee, fruit juice or water will be offered.
- You will be expected to remove your shoes on entering a private residence so it is important to ensure you have clean feet or wear respectable socks. If you are invited for a meal in a private home that is eaten at floor level, remember to sit so that the soles of your feet do not face anyone. Only take food with your right hand. Do not explicitly admire anything belonging to your host. Your host would then be honour bound to make you a gift of the item, and would in turn expect a gift of the same stature in return at a later stage.
The points above are by no means a fully exhaustive list of do’s and dont’s for the Gulf region, and more research should be undertaken once you are aware of where exactly it is that you will be working.
United Arab Emirates
Population: 4.7 million
Capital: Abu Dhabi
Area: 77,700 sq km (30,000 sq miles)
Official language: Arabic
Currency: 1 Dirham = 100 fils
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Qaiwain. Since Abu Dhabi became the first of the emirates to begin exporting oil, the country’s society and economy have been transformed. Oil revenues have been invested into healthcare, education and the national infrastructure, diversifying the economy and creating booming business, tourism and construction sectors.
During the credit boom that built up after 2000, the UAE emerged as the cosmopolitan hub for the Middle East. Foreign investment paved the way for construction projects such as Palm Island or the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, the world’s tallest building. Residents in the UAE enjoy a high standard of living because of oil wealth, and economic diversification has dampened the effects of oil price fluctuations on the stock market.
The Dubai International Film Festival and the Sharjah International Book Fair attract visitors from all over the world. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have ambitious plans to open world-class museums and galleries, and there is also a lively dance and music scene with festivals and international acts performing across the UAE. Sports fans can head to the Formula One Grand Prix, and the UAE is a paradise for shoppers, boasting several giant shopping malls. Dubai’s gold souk is nothing short of spectacular, and well worth a visit.
The UAE offers excellent education for its nationals through its fully subsidised public schools and universities. Primary and secondary school education is compulsory for all UAE Nationals. Teaching is carried out in Arabic with the emphasis of English as a second language. They have some excellent private schools (primary, intermediate and secondary) and universities which are internationally accredited to some of the best learning institutions in the world. Almost all the teaching in these schools is carried out in English.
School fees vary from school to school, but in general compare quite favourably to the prices you would be charged for private schools in the Western world. There are over 130 private schools in the UAE, many of which specifically cater to the large English-speaking expat community. Many follow the British education system and teach the National Curriculum of England in primary school, then offer IGCSE and A-Level qualifications at the senior level. Other institutions follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, with a handful following other curricula like the Australian National Curriculum.
It’s absolutely essential to apply as soon as possible. Most schools will post admission requirements and application procedures on their websites; in many cases it’s possible to begin the application process from abroad. Good international schools are flooded with applications each year, and this should be one of the first priorities for expats with children when planning their relocation.
Standards of healthcare are considered high in the United Arab Emirates, resulting from increased government spending during strong economic years. The UAE currently has over 40 public hospitals, and the Ministry of Health is undertaking a multimillion-dollar program to expand health facilities and hospitals, medical centres, and trauma centres in the seven emirates.
Across the UAE, the majority of medical services are up to European standards. The comprehensive, government-funded health service, and a fast developing private health sector, have pushed healthcare indicators to respectable levels. Life expectancy at birth is 78.3 years. Malaria, measles and poliomyelitis, once endemic in the UAE, have been eradicated. Chronic disease, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease, is the new target. Health promotion campaigns to improve lifestyles are underway.
Expats can buy their own health insurance, and apply for a health card from the Health Ministry, which gives access to the state system in emergency. Those with private cover may not to be welcomed in some state hospitals for elective treatment. There is no automatic provision for this. In short, if you have private insurance, you’re expected to use a private hospital. It’s a good idea to know the location and contact details of your nearest private hospital.
Cost of Living
Though rental rates have declined slightly since peaking in 2008, when it comes to the cost of living expats should anticipate their largest expense to be accommodation. The cost of accommodation varies considerably, and is usually paid upfront or with post-dated cheques for a typical minimum term of one year.
Grocery prices are reasonable, but expatriates living in the UAE who search out luxury goods or brand names from home will need to be prepared to pay higher prices for those items. Local food stuffs will always be better priced than imported goods, so don’t be afraid to try the Emirati equivalents to cut costs. Alcohol is expensive and can only be purchased in hotel bars and clubs (or for your own home if you have a license). Fuel costs are low, as are vehicle costs when compared to UK prices.
In the 2012 Mercer Cost of Living survey, no cities in the UAE featured in the top ten most expensive cities in which to live. Abu Dhabi (76) overtook Dubai (94) in the rankings and became the most expensive city in the United Arab Emirates. One of the biggest benefits to expatriates of living in the UAE is the low taxation, and this has a positive impact on the cost of such items as vehicles, electronic goods and local produce.
As petrol is quite cheap in the UAE, the main mode of transportation is the car. International car rentals and local companies offer great deals to expats who want to rent a car. Expats should, however, not hesitate to shop around and compare prices as rates may vary. In order to own a car, you must have a valid residency visa.
Expats should make sure to exchange their driver’s license from home for a local one. The regulations for this process may vary from emirate to emirate. However, once the local driving permit has been issued, driving is legal throughout the entire country. Expats also need to be prepared for plenty of speed controls with high fines. In the UAE, traffic regulations are strictly enforced, and even small violations can cause a lot of trouble.
Those who do not want to drive themselves can always take a taxi. Taxis are available almost everywhere in the UAE at relatively cheap rates. However, rates may differ depending on location and company. Please note that not all taxis are metered.
As most people travel by car or taxi, public transportation options are rare. Buses and minibuses are only available in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and some parts of Dubai. The Dubai Municipality has taken it upon itself to improve the inter-emirate bus services as well. Some travel as far as Muscat, Oman. Buses in the UAE are generally clean and efficient. Cycling and walking is not very common in the UAE. Not only is it considered too hot to exercise in the open air during the summer months, there are also no bike paths for cyclists.
Applying for jobs
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