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Ras Al Khaimah | HEALTH & EDUCATION | REVIEW: HEALTH

Ras Al Khaimah is looking to foreign investment to improve medical access and quality. Preventative care is also on the radar as the Emirate tackles lifestyle-related diseases.

As Ras Al Khaimah looks to build a more diversified economy and establish its place as a center for industry and commerce in the GCC, expanding and improving the capabilities of its healthcare sector is one of the Emirate's many goals. Years of economic development have raised baseline health outcomes across the entire UAE, but also brought new lifestyle-related diseases and rapidly growing populations.

Ras Al Khaimah's healthcare sector is overseen by the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention, which provides health services in every Emirate bar Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which have their own healthcare authorities. The ministry oversees a network of both public and private hospitals; public hospitals' services are free for Emirati citizens, while expats are charged a subsidized rate for emergency treatments. The hospital network has expanded considerably in recent years due to increased demand. Since 2010 three government hospitals have opened in Ras Al Khaimah, as well as several small mobile medical facilities designed to bring medical services to previously underserved rural populations. Recently, however, Ras Al Khaimah authorities have begun to take a more active role in providing healthcare to citizens of the Northern Emirates. After Dubai passed a mandatory health insurance law in 2014, Ras Al Khaimah authorities began to have conversations about passing similar legislation. These plans came to fruition in late 2017 when Ras Al Khaimah became the third UAE member and the first Northern Emirate to introduce its own health insurance coverage.
To help coordinate insurance options, the Emirate's Department of Economic Development (RAK DED) launched a web portal called Sehteq to serve as a one-stop web platform for citizens looking for insurance and healthcare options from companies licensed by RAK DED. To broaden coverage to the entire population, insurance coverage options as low as AED550 per month have been launched. Ras Al Khaimah's government also hopes that this will make the Emirate's private healthcare sector more attractive to foreign investors; with demand rising quickly and expected to continue to increase in the future, the sector holds significant potential for healthcare providers.
As an example of how collaboration with international healthcare providers can benefit both sides, Ras Al Khaimah has been aggressive in forming partnerships to construct new specialized facilities and improve service quality through training and technology acquisition. While the Emirate has a strong foundation of facilities, the lack of adequately trained medical professionals has long been one of Ras Al Khaimah's greatest issues as it seeks to build its healthcare sector. Recently, however, a new specialized center has opened, giving the healthcare sector a needed boost. In January 2018, global healthcare provider Emirates Healthcare opened the Al Reef Medical Centre, a facility specializing in dental care. In 2015, Ras Al Khaimah welcomed the opening of the Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital; the 248-bed medical facility became the largest specialty hospital in the Middle East upon opening. The Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital is owned and operated by Seoul National University Hospital, which also contributed 200 staff members and provides training to local medical professionals in an attempt to strengthen the larger healthcare sector and increase expertise. RAK Hospital also benefits from certain foreign expertise, with Sonnenhof Swiss Health, a leading healthcare group from Switzerland, as its partner of choice.
Moving forward, Ras Al Khaimah's plan is to continue using its international connections to strengthen its position and bring its healthcare sector up to global standards. In January 2018 the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention received international accreditation for a network of 16 health centers in Ras Al Khaimah, a mark of how the sector is quickly adapting best practices and meeting global quality standards. The Emirate is also working on public awareness programs to encourage healthier lifestyles and raise awareness of the importance of preventative care through in-school events and other initiatives, including private-sector-driven campaigns such as RAK Hospital's weight loss challenge. Cultural shifts have increased the prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but Emirati officials believe that through public initiatives they can help build a healthier population.