Monday, June 28, 2010

75% Dubai workers lack health coverage

The Gulf Today, 28 June 2010

A striking difference has been noticed between low and high income groups of Dubai residents in regards to enjoying the benefits of quality and transparent healthcare services in the emirate, reveals a survey.
The findings of the first comprehensive Dubai Household Health Survey (DHHS) have ignited plans of the local health authority to tailor its existing policies to meet the population’s healthcare requirements in an evidence-based manner.
The DHHS, reaching out to the people in the age group of 18 to 59 years living and working in the emirate to understand their health and health care needs, has been carried out recently by Dubai Health Authority (DHA) in tandem with the Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC).
The survey covered a total of 5,000 households in Dubai, including 2,500 UAE nationals and 2,500 non-UAE nationals, among whom 700 respondents were labourers, with a response rate of 97.6 per cent, says a senior health official.
Dr Eldaw Abdalla Suliman, Head of Research and Performance Section at the DHA, said that preliminary results of the DHHS unveil a serious assessment of the present health status of Dubai and raised concerns over a number of related issues.
“The survey revealed that 75 per cent of the low-income expatriates of Dubai lack health insurance coverage and the rate is 20 per cent among the high-income group expats. Meanwhile, about 95 per cent of the UAE nationals have been covered by health insurance schemes,” he pointed out.
“The prevalence of diabetes is at 16 per cent among the citizens living in Dubai, while it’s eight per cent among the expatriate communities. The prevalence has stunning variations among diabetics of different age groups,” added Dr Suliman.
“The prevalence of hypertension among citizens is at 22.26 per cent, while it’s only at 2.75 per cent among the expats. The habit of smoking grips 8.62 Emiratis in Dubai, and 13 per cent of the non-nationals. Fifteen per cent of the population in Dubai faces risks of passive smoking, with 11.44 per cent of Emirati passive smokers and it’s 16 per cent when it comes to expats,” he elaborated.
Laila Al Jassmi, CEO of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA, said, “The DHHS has an unprecedented assessment of the healthcare needs of Dubai’s nationals, residents and visitors. The detailed information on their health issues obtained during the survey will be analysed over the next 18 months,” she added.
“The study will help the DHA prioritise the emirate’s health issues and develop effective and long-term solutions to address them. The authority has to improve public access to health care services, and implement better policies to tackle chronic diseases,” she added.
“The DHHS gathered data on several health modules of strategic significance. It is a solid evidence for decision making and providing baseline estimates for the health sector’s major key performance indicators,” noted Al Jassmi.
Afaf Ahmed Bu Assaiba, Director of Population and Social Statistics at the Dubai Statistics Centre, said that the surveyors randomly selected households across the emirate and obtained detailed responses.
“The issues ranged from household expenditure on health, health coverage, overseas healthcare, fertility and childhood mortality. Questions also related to their overall physical health including daily physical activities, health service coverage and chronic conditions,” she elaborated.
“The respondents have been quizzed on their experiences of symptoms for diseases such as arthritis, blood cholesterol, blood lipids, diabetes, insulin resistance, asthma, blood clots, stroke and brain hemorrhage,” she added.
“The questionnaire also enquired whether the respondents have visited a healthcare practitioner for the same, medical tests and hospitalisation they have undertaken over the last 12 months, reason for the hospitalisation, surgeries undertaken during the period, satisfaction level with the healthcare services provided, as well as medications they are currently taking,” noted Assaiba.
According to her, a series of queries related to mental health as well as injuries like road traffic damages to the body have also been raised to the respondents.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ministry shuts down 3 medical centres, removes 2 doctors

The Gulf Today, 22 June 2010

Three private medical centres have been shut down by the Ministry of Health (MoH) recently for poor performance in complying with regulations, while two doctors have been removed from practicing the profession for negligence and breaching the basic requirements.
In another incident, a dermatologist has been issued a final warning for misusing laser that caused side effects after a patient underwent a plastic surgery at his clinic, said a senior health official.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, Executive Director for Medical Practices and Licensing and Vice-Chairman of Medical Licensing Committee at the MoH, said, “One of the suspended doctors was found illegally practicing without obtaining a qualifying licence from the MoH.”
“The latter is a dentist, who has been barred from practicing for two months for using unsterilised equipment and unhygienic maintenance of his clinic. He can resume his practice after an assessment by the MoH committee on correcting the malpractices,” he added.
“The case of a gynecologist, who allegedly caused the death of an infant born through a Caesarian, has also been transferred to the MoH special committee, which will investigate whether any negligence occurred from the doctor’s side during the surgical procedures. Another complaint had also been lodged against the gynecologist,” elaborated Dr Al Amiri.
According to him, the health facilities were ordered to close based on the ministry’s inspection reports on violations ranging from lack of medical registry to treatment with non-provision of sufficient specialties.
He said, “A clinic operating in Ras Al Khaimah has been closed down as one of the clinic’s general practitioners, under the ministry’s investigation for violating the regulations, continued his practice and provided patients medications and treatment.”
“The third errant medical centre, which was also located in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, has been ordered shut for two months, a time frame to adhere to the ministry’s regulations,” he added.
Dr Al Amiri said that the committee has refused an odd appeal presented by a doctor to cancel her MoH licence and blacklist her name for medical negligence, until the final decision of the public prosecutor is announced.”
“Four other cases of medical negligence have been reserved by the committee to ensure whether the surgeries or treatment provided to the patients were as per the ministry’s rules and conditions,” he noted.
According to him, the misuse of laser technology in the plastic surgery case will be reassessed.
Meanwhile, the patient who suffered side-effects has been given the rights to claim compensation from the errant dermatologist. “The patient can approach the court for financial solution,” he elaborated.
“The committee has granted initial working licences to two clinics and rehabilitation centres, while the change of names of six medical facilities has been approved,” said Dr Al Amiri.
“Consent has been given to three medical facilities for shifting to new locations, while another operation of medical centre has been cancelled upon request of authorities concerned. The committee also waived licences of six medical facilities, based on requests of their respective owners,” he added.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Municipality cooks LPG safety lessons for families

The Gulf Today, 21 June 2010

The Dubai Municipality is all set to launch a comprehensive awareness campaign, covering all families with lessons on the safe usage of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders at villas and apartments.

The immediate spark for the fresh safety campaign is said to be an explosion allegedly due to cooking gas leakage in a Mirdiff villa, endangering the lives of four teenage girls, who were admitted to Rashid Hospital in serious conditions, sources revealed. 

“Tens of thousands of awareness materials will be distributed at doorsteps by officers from the municipality’s building inspection, public health and safety sections as well as staff from the waste management department,” said the DM source.

According to him, the DM had just completed a safety campaign targeting LPG cylinder distribution agencies, eventually taking punitive actions against about 43 errant establishments for breaching safety regulations.

He said, “The LPG safety inspections are currently being carried out at restaurants and cafeterias in the city, while all the LPG distributors will be again called by the DM for another safety seminar soon.”

Sultan Essa Al Suwaidi, Head of the Public Safety Section in the Public Health and Safety Department of the DM, said that gas leakage is the result of improper flow of the gas from valves, hoses and fittings of the LPG cylinders.

“The establishments that supply and install LPG cylinders should ensure easy and effective maintenance, provided with full security to prevent accidents,” he added.

He gave safety tips to the residential users to avoid incidents of LPG cylinder explosions, “There is a set of safety procedures to avoid gas cylinder blast incidents. The conditions include not opening or closing the gas valve violently and not using devices like hammer for opening and closing the valve.”

“Using lighters and match boxes at gas cylinder storages should be avoided, while checking a gas leak, instead water and soap solutions should be applied to ensure leakages. It’s also advised not to risk life by trying to transfer gas from one cylinder to another as it may lead to a blast,” advised Al Suwaidi.

He said that using a cylinder for purposes like climbing on it to reach a high place or putting so many things over is also restricted. The customers should ensure that there is no flame or open fire while changing the gas cylinders.

“It should also be made sure that there is no flame or any other source of spark while replacing the gas cylinder. Children are prohibited from playing with the cylinder even if it’s empty,” he noted.

“It’s recommended to avoid placing gas cylinders inside the kitchen, instead it could be preferably placed in the balcony. Ensure that both the gas cylinder and the gas cooker valves are closed prior to leaving the house,” pointed out Al Suwaidi.

“The hose connecting cylinder and stove shall be regularly checked for damage that may happen due to exposure to heat and weather conditions. Such hoses with defects must be replaced immediately with standard ones, while attempts to repair them using tape or adhesive material are not entertained,” he explained.

“The hose should not be too long or too short, as long ones may get tangled around the gas cooker or cylinder, while short ones may slip out either from the gas cooker or the cylinder,” he added.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ministry to conduct national nutrition survey

The Gulf Today, 20 June 2010

A comprehensive food survey, covering all the seven emirates, to identify the perfect dietary patterns of the UAE residents, will be conducted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) by the end of the year in tandem with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The national food survey is expected to be carried out after this summer, and the action plan is currently being studied by the ministry, according to a senior health official.
Dr Salem Al Darmaki, the acting director general of the MOH, said, “A delegation of seven experts from the WHO and International Council for Iodine Deficiency Disorder will visit the UAE from June 19 to 27 to participate in the ongoing planning and preparation of the survey.”
“A national committee for the survey has been formed consisting of representatives from the MoH, Abu Dhabi Health Authority, Dubai Health Authority and Ministry of Economy. Experts from the UAE University also will be part of the survey,” he added.
“Prior to the launch of the survey, the MoH has to complete administrative procedures with other relevant local authorities, and technical requirements like preparation of paper works and assigning manpower,” pointed out Dr Al Darmaki.
“The health ministry officials conducted a first-of-its-kind consultative meeting with the WHO experts on Saturday in Dubai, and discussed methods of developing educational programmes focusing on the area of nutrition and health,” he noted.
According to him, such academic programmes will help the country in preventing proliferation of non-communicable diseases that sweep residents' health apparently, impacting the financial stability of the country.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the executive director for Health Policies at the MoH, said that the health ministry ensures quality healthcare services for all the residents in the country by implementing potential health policies and joining hands with local and international bodies.
“The strategic objective of the country is to promote health, education, hygienic behaviour and lifestyle to reduce risk factors related to non-communicable diseases,” he added.
Dr Fikri quoted recent statistics and said that non-communicable diseases could cause seven deaths out of 10 deaths in the world by the end of this year.
“The operational plan for the survey will be implemented clearly defining the role of each participant. The interview samples will also be finalised by the committee, determining the sample sizes, selection of required tests as well as preparation of laboratories and training of field researchers,” he elaborated.
According to him, the MoH initiative comes after continuous efforts for fighting and eradicating non-communicable diseases.

Friday, June 18, 2010

43 gas distributors punished for violations

The Gulf Today, 18 June 2010

Strict punitive measures have been taken against 43 cooking gas distributing establishments in different areas of Dubai for violating safety norms in dealing with gas cylinders and endangering lives of the public.
The gas agencies were found not adhering to the public health security requirements and regulations to prevent disasters, during a safety inspection drive carried out by the Dubai Municipality (DM) inspectors in about 144 gas distribution companies, according to an official.
Sultan Essa Al Suwaidi, the head of the Public Safety Section in the Public Health and Safety Department of the DM, said that each of the errant gas distributors was imposed a fine of Dhs1,800 for not complying with the conditions implemented by the civic body.
“The establishments that supply and install cooking gas cylinders in the emirate should ensure easy and effective maintenance operations, and provide full security to prevent incidence of leakage,” he added.
“The regulations also enforce on provision of dedicated storage facility for gas cylinders made of non-flammable materials, storing cylinders in an upright position all the time inside the devoted cabinets and not storing any other materials within the place dedicated to keeping gas cylinders,” pointed out Al Suwaidi.
According to him, the gas distribution establishments should provide valid and appropriate fire-fighting facilities in their gas cylinder storage areas.
He added, “They should carry out periodic maintenance of all parts and connections of gas lines and document them in the records, and follow safety and security measures in transporting the cylinders for delivery to the customers.”
Al Suwaidi said that using lighters and match boxes at gas cylinder storages should be avoided, while checking a gas leak, instead water and soap can only be used to make sure about such incidents.
“The gas used for cooking purposes is a petroleum product, which is composed of a mixture of butane and propane and this mixture does not have a smell. But for the safety of users, a material with a strong smell is added so that it is easy to find out if there is a leak,” he noted.
He advised, “There is a set of safety procedures to avoid gas cylinder blast incidents. The conditions include not opening or closing the gas valve violently, and not using devices like hammer for opening and closing the valve.”
“Transfer of gas from one cylinder to the another also must not be allowed, as it could lead to explosion and endanger life. Using a cylinder for any other purpose such as climbing on it to reach a high place or putting so many things over it is also restricted. The customers should ensure that there is no flame or open fire while changing the gas cylinders,” he elaborated. 
“It should be made sure while using the gas, that there is no leakage by using water and soap foam. Using flame or match stick to make sure there is a leak is not entertained as it may threaten the lives of users and others. It’s also recommended to avoid putting gas cylinders inside the kitchen, instead it could be preferably placed in the balcony,” explained Al Suwaidi.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Big boys get sick too

Studies have shown that men in the UAE often neglect their health. MHA has been launched to improve awareness of the major health risks pertaining to men.

The Gulf Today, 16 June 2010

HEALTH is wealth, but when it comes to men in the UAE, it seems all's not well.
The stakes for good health among men in the UAE are too high and any complacency in this matter can be perilous, says an expert.
A United Nation's (UN) report in 2009 revealed that men in the UAE have a shorter life expectancy of 77 years, while their female counterparts are expected to live 79 years.
In the global scenario, women are 33 per cent more likely than men to visit a doctor in general, although the gap narrows with increasing age, disclosed a recent study.
"The biggest problem that men face is not so much a specific disease," says Dr Nabil Mitry, "but the diseases which are the result of a general lack of health care monitoring and awareness earlier in life. The big picture shows that death rates from specific men's health issues are not falling."
"Men die at higher rates than women among all top 10 causes of death. Any person who is not connected to a doctor to screen for minor or major health problems is at greater risk of disease and death. Studies pointedly show that the UAE men neglect their health," said the region's pioneer specialist on male-specific health issues.
"Men take less time and initiative to take care of their health, seek medical advice or even search for information. The result is that one in three of the UAE men will be already suffering from specific men's health issues, and one in four of them will likely die from it," he warned.
"If a man doesn't get his cholesterol checked when it's going high at the age of 20 years, and if he doesn't get his blood pressure checked when it's going high at 30, may be his blood sugar's getting a little high when he is 40 years, what does he think is going to happen when he's 50 years old?"
Dr Mitry posed the question on the occasion of the launch of the very first platform for the UAE's male population to raise health issues specific to them, get motivated for making potential lifestyle changes, eventually helping themselves prevent a cluster of alarming ailments.
The UAE Men's Health Alliance (MHA), the only national patient organisation of its kind, has been launched on Tuesday in Dubai with a mission of improving awareness of the major health risks pertaining to men.
The MHA plans to reverse the trend and bring the importance of men's health into spotlight. Dr Nabil Mitry is the chairperson of the non-profit group, which aims to educate men to look for the warning signs and have a better understanding of the key health issues affecting their health.
"The agenda is to help improve the overall health and wellbeing of the UAE's male population and raise awareness of the significant health conditions that put their lives in irrecoverable risks," he added.
"The MHA will focus on prevalent health issues ranging from cardiac disorders and diabetes to the often-overlooked conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and physiological issues such as emotional divorce and depression," he elaborated.
"Taboos, embarrassment, stigmas and social pressure often associated with the men's health issues in the UAE should be overcome," observes Dr Mitry. "The MHA, through its awareness and outreach programmes, will provide information and educational resources on men's issues as well as the emotional factors within families due to depression caused by health problems of men."
The ED is a less talked but one of the most common diseases that men suffer in the UAE, which also has the world’s second largest diabetes prevalence and just look at the ratio of depression among the men. These are the problems which we can't be ignored anymore," he remarked.
When asked why the charitable network has been formed, the MHA spokesperson said that it aims to change attitudes, behaviours and lifestyles for the men in the UAE, as to how they view their own health. We will inform them on the best ways to improve their health situation.
Dr Mitry observed that raising awareness on men's health is one of the key challenges for the future. "The MHA wants men to know what the health issues are, what to look for, and how best to treat these issues before they become life-threatening health problems." "Educational campaigns will be conducted in workplaces, malls and other public gathering areas across the UAE, in tandem with the Ministry of Health, local health authorities and healthcare providers. A definitive set of key health messages for the men have been developed."
"Detection and treatment is delivered to all the UAE men in a responsible way," he ensures. "We don't want men anxiously rushing to see their GPs when there may be nothing wrong with them."
"Hopefully, the messages will strike a balance between giving men the information they need to be aware of, but giving accurate and consistent information to the men and their families, not causing unnecessary worries," Dr Mitry added.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dubai to enforce labourer safety rules during summer

The Gulf Today, 15 June 2010

Municipal officials will visit various construction sites, industrial workplaces and other public areas across the emirate of Dubai in order to enforce occupational safety regulations and tackle hazards of elevated temperature conditions during the summer.
This was announced on Monday as Dubai Municipality (DM) launched its annual safe and healthy summer campaign to prevent heat stress cases among all segments of the society.
Redha Hassan Salman, Director of Public Health and Safety Department at the DM, said, “Apart from the construction sites, 18 public places like jogging tracks, shopping centres, parks, metro stations, beaches and mass gathering areas of the emirate will also be covered in the campaign that runs until July 31.
“Both the private and government sectors will be addressed on the health safety of their employees through implementation of perfect occupational and health safety practices at work places in the summer. The labourers and their supervisors will be educated on the means of safety and first-aid and the importance of constant intake of water and means of prevention of heat stress," he added.
“Meanwhile, the beach-goers or visitors to open spaces will be given awareness lessons on the heat stress, its symptoms, prevention methods and first-aid. Awareness materials such as leaflets, urine charts, posters, water and sachets of instant hydration drinks also will be distributed among workers,” elaborated said Salman.
Raed Mohammed Al Marzouki, Head of Occupational Health and Safety Section at the DM, said the focus is to ensure implementation of international, federal and civic regulations on the safety of workers at construction sites, industrial units and other outdoor working places, where heat hazards could be dangerous.
“Supervisors at worksites should be equipped with knowledge on the methods of maintaining the health of their workers during the working hours in the summer. The site supervisors or companies are not allowed to insist on a labourer suffering from heat hazards to finish his work,” he added
The labourer should be given ample rest, in addition to provision of proper safety measures or medications if needed. If any labourer feels tired or exhausted due to the heat, the site supervisor should take him out of the place to provide sufficient rest and medical aid,” pointed out Al Marzouki.
Dr Mohammed Motawally, Occupational Health Specialist at the Municipality Clinic, said, “High temperature with humidity leads to excessive sweating in an attempt to cool the body resulting in rapid dehydration that, if not controlled, can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.”
“Workers should have knowledge on the symptoms of various heat-related illnesses, precautionary measures to avoid the heat stress as well as emergency procedures to help co-workers in such events,” he added.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

15 Somalian leopards seized at UAE port

The Gulf Today, 11 June 2010

The Ministry of Environment and Water (MOEW) has foiled a major bid to smuggle at least 15 Somalian leopards to the UAE recently.
The endangered species were shipped to the country for trade from the Republic of Somalia without any official document or health clearance certificate, according to a senior official.
Abdalla Salem El Ganaan, the executive director for Agricultural Affairs and Livestock at the MOEW, said the shipment of leopards was booked based on the UAE Federal Law No.11/2002 on application of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“The leopards had been kept safely at the MOEW’s animal quarantine centre in Al Aweer to take further necessary regulatory actions, and conduct medical examinations on them,” he added.
“The seized panthers including juvenile leopards weighted up to 250 kilogrammes. The species is among the 34 types of listed endangered animals in CITES Convention of 1975. It included in the genus of cheetah,” explained El Ganaan. According to him, the UAE has joined the CITES A and is bound to comply with and implementation of its terms.
“The law in the UAE, allows the import, export or re-export of this kind of endangered animals with sufficient documentation and medical certificates according to the CITES conditions,” he noted.
“The procedures existing in the UAE in this regard ensure safety of public health, protection of humans and animals of the country from communicable diseases or epidemics,” he pointed out.
“The purpose of the environment ministry is to tighten its strategies to raise the rates of bio-security in the country, by ensuring prevention of biological risks from outbreaks of diseases that may affect the country’s animal stock and birds. Such diseases may transfer from the animals to human beings,” El Ganaan explained.
“According to the articles in the federal law, the offenders can be punished with an imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months and a fine of Dhs10,000 to Dhs50,000,” he said.
The environment ministry had last month rejected import of about 540 livestock and birds infected with various contagious diseases through major ports of the country.
The sources at the environment ministry revealed that a shipment of about 300 sheep arrived at the Ghuwaifat Sea Port in Abu Dhabi was denied access to the country, as the livestock were infected with contagious Brucellosis disease.
In another incident, around 240 birds affected with bird flu (H1N5-Influenza) that arrived at the Sharjah International Airport were also refused entry to the country.
The MOEW also had issued last month an animal protection welfare guide as part of a programme to boost levels of biological safety, focusing on highest care for the animals in the country.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Research on UAE’s diabetes menace


The Gulf Today, 11 June 2010

A comprehensive epidemiological diabetes research will cover different groups of the UAE population to discover various parametres and facts behind the alarming prevalence of the non-communicable disease in the country.
The Ministry of Health (MoH), in tandem with University of Sharjah, has launched the national diabetes surveillance study on Thursday.
An agreement has been signed between the MoH, the provider of diabetes management solutions and the university's College of Medicines and Health Sciences, the academy that is involved in the research.
"The first extensive national diabetes study will sketch out the actual prevalence of diabetes in the country, and acknowledge the risk factors and complications as well as familial and genetic factors associated with diabetes in the UAE," said a senior health official.
Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Executive Director for health Policies at the MoH, said, "The scientific research will accumulate the complete knowledge on the present status of the disease authentically."
"It will recommend action plans to be implemented to prevent it, and the best ways to improve the total health services for both the UAE citizens and expatriates. The MoH has been working on the project for a long time, as the UAE has emerged as the largest diabetes prevalent country in the world," he added.
According to him, both academic and medical community will meet the requirements of the local community to combat the basic health threats related to the disease. Once the study is completed, the strategy and plan of action will be implemented to control the prevalence of the diabetes.
Professor Samy Mahmoud, Chancellor of the Sharjah University, said, "The study, to be completed within a year, will analyse various aspects of the disease such as genetic background, pace of the prevalence, family study, cases of both males and females, dietary habits and management of the disease."
"The country's diabetics in different age groups, including children and adults, will be subjected to the study through various health ministry centres, hospitals and local health authorities across the country," he added.
"Once result of the study is revealed, the authorities will be able to identify effective treatments, medication, diet for a meaningful management of the diabetes in the country," pointed out Mahmoud.
According to him, diabetes risk factors related to lifestyle in the country also will be studied, in addition to identifying children with the risk of diabetes.
Dr Nabil Suleiman, Co-ordinator of the Diabetes Epidemiological Research and Head of the Family and Community Medicine Dept at Sharjah University, said, "The research will be based on a random sample of the density of the population in each emirate."
"Eight senior researchers will be part of the study team from Sharjah University, in addition to 30 data collectors from different health centres across the UAE," he added.
"Lifestyle and ethnic factors related to diet, physical activity and stress will be monitored during the study, to be conducted as per international protocol of the best quality," he noted.
International Institute of Diabetes Study, Baker Research Institute in Australia and INSERM, the largest medical research institute in France will support the epidemiological diabetes research.
"The agreement with the Sharjah University last for five years to be renewed for a similar period of time," said Dr Fikri.
"Diabetes healthcare professionals will be trained specialising in preventive care and treatment with the support of Australian and European universities," he added.
"Compared to the previous studies, results of the national diabetes epidemic study will provide a national accurate database on the disease for developing strategies, plans and programmes to fight the disease effectively," explained Dr Fikri.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

7% food godowns in Dubai unsafe

The Gulf Today, 9 June 2010

About 7 per cent of the total foodstuff warehouses in Dubai have been found to be not adhering to the public health safety and hygiene regulations of Dubai Municipality (DM).
It was revealed after an inspection drive at mass food godowns of the emirate, carried out recently by the civic body to prevent outbreaks of food poisoning cases during the summer, a senior DM official said.
Sultan Al Tahir, the head of Product Control Section in the Food Control Department of the DM, said the campaign covered 257 warehouses of dry, chilled and frozen food items.
“At least 144 foodstuff establishments have been fined for violations, and warned to immediately adhere to the DM’s conditions and modify their status,” he added.
“Among the total inspected warehouses, 18 have received weak assessment marks for poor storage of foods. Most common violations in such premises were regarding preservation of the food items without proper ventilation,” pointed out Tahir.
According to him, each type of food should be stored with appropriate safety measures and suitable temperature to protect them from contamination, as negligence during high humidity and temperature may cause the growth and reproduction of microbes.
“Effective control of the temperature level at the warehouses will reduce the microbes preventing them from multiplying and destroying the foodstuffs,,” explained Tahir.
He said that efficiency of refrigeration and freezing equipment, and availability of alternative modes in case of breakdowns at the warehouses were also monitored.
“The refrigeration units should work at a temperature of 4°C or less, and freezing units at minus 18°C or less. While, the dry food items should be kept at 21°C or less temperature,” he elaborated.
“The health and hygiene of the warehouse workers, validity of the foodstuff, manipulation or fraudulence were also subjected to the inspections,” said Tahir.

By-law on alternative medical practices soon

The Gulf Today, 9 June 2010

A draft by-law for improving alternative medical practices and regulating the circulation of herbal medicines in the UAE is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The law comes in light of the necessity of establishing a general framework for the alternative medical professions and treatments as they influence the healthcare of the community, according to a senior official.
Speaking at the fourth herbal medicine conference in Dubai on Tuesday, Dr Salem Al Darmaki, the acting director general at the MoH, said, “The health ministry requires alternative medical practitioners to adopt necessary procedures for the integrity and quality of their service and to stop malpractices to guarantee the safety of patients,” he added.
“Among the total 8,400 registered pharmaceutical products in the UAE, 400 are herbal medicines,” he said.
Dr Amin Al Amiri, the executive director for Medical Practices and Licensing at the MoH, said that international guidelines will be implemented for the registration and exchange of herbal medicines to guarantee their safety and quality.
“Further recommendations are needed for establishing an evaluation system for the herbal medicines and similar products. A web portal will be developed to exchange information about fake herbal pharmaceutical products. The alternative medical practices based on Islamic, Greek, Indian and Chinese traditions will also be monitored by experts,” he added.
Al Darmaki said that various modes of alternative and complementary medical practices have become widely popular in many developed countries, as the natural medicines are safer than medicines with chemical ingredients.”
“A federal law was issued in the UAE in 1995 to register pharmaceutical products derived from natural substances. Being the first Arab country to initiate such an effort to give significance to alternative and complimentary medicines, the UAE has implemented several instructions in terms of their registration and approval since 1998,” he added.
According to him, these regulations are based on strict measures to ensure conformity with the highest standards of quality, effectiveness and safety.
“The UAE established an alternative herbal treatment centre in 2001, to evaluate licensing procedures for alternative medical practitioners and therapeutic institutions in the country”, he noted.
Al Darmaki said that the health ministry’s goal is to come up with recommendations and international guidelines for the alternative medicine registration, organisation and regulation in accordance with the best practices in the field in order to ensure the quality of scientific and effectiveness of the herbal medicines.
The MoH has set up a higher committee, led by Dr Amin Al Amiri and representatives from various health and government authorities in the UAE, to follow up the regulations on the herbal medicines.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Unified collection of utility bills in Dubai

The Gulf Today, 6 June 2010

Collection of housing fees in Dubai at five per cent of the rent value has been added to the billing procedures of Dubai Electricity and Water (DEWA), as the Municipality on Sunday launched the second phase of its project for an integrated e-application system.
Dubai Municipality (DM) has introduced the electronic system to collect the different utility charges all together, aimed at guaranteeing quality of work and comprehensive coverage of all tenants throughout the emirate, according to a senior DM official.
Arif Ahli, Director of Finance Department at the DM, said, the centralised collection under the unified e-system throughout the emirate will prevent manipulation of the utility bills. The DM will coordinate with DEWA for collection of the housing fees through its monthly billing system.
"Notices will be sent to the tenants to pay the fees within the DEWA bills, as this final phase of the project is aimed at applying the system to all tenants and landlords concerned,” he added.
“Implementation of the system will be done by making the public fill up special forms designed for this purpose that are available on the DM web portal,” said Ahli.
He pointed out, “If anybody fails to register, the tenant will be sent a final notice asking to provide required data during the month, and in case of failure to respond, the tenant will be charged housing fees as per the rental index issued by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA).”
“The Municipality or DEWA shall not bear any responsibility for this towards the customer or others," he warned.
According to Ahli, the new system has been developed during the project’s second phase in the light of the observations on the application of the system in its first phase.
"The first phase of the project had begun in 2005, when the housing fee was collected through the newly registered rent contracts with the DEWA. The Municipality has started taking the final steps to apply the system under the plan for the second phase of the project and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2010,” he explained.
”The housing fees have been collected since 1962 on the basis of a law on Dubai Municipality revenue and linking it with the DEWA in a strategic partnership between the two government bodies,” he added.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

59 errant eateries shut down in Dubai

The Gulf Today, 6 June 2010

Fifty nine restaurants, cafeterias and other food outlets have been temporarily closed down in Dubai for violation of civic regulations, as food inspectors at Dubai Municipality (DM) have carried out as many as 15,200 inspection visits in the first half of the current year.
The overall inspections this year so far have reached 31 312, including routine and follow-up visits, according to a senior DM official.
Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Ali, Head of Food Inspection at the DM said, numerous visits by a team of 10 inspectors have been carried out in order to survey the accurate number of food service establishments currently operational in each region of the emirate, and verify they are adhering to the required municipal conditions.
“Among the violations, the most common irregularity was lack of health cards for workers at the food establishments. Personal hygiene of the employees, including dirty dressing and appearance, was also subjected to the offenses,” he added.
“Punitive actions have been imposed by the inspections, in cases of unhygienic atmosphere, use of rotten, contaminated and expired food items and even presence of insects and rodents in some food outlets,” pointed out Al Ali.
“The breaches, causing risks to the public health safety, also included improper conservation of cooked dishes and storing them in places where the food may be contaminated or spoiled,” he said.
According to him, the civic body received 1,224 complaints from customers about unhygienic situations at many restaurants and cafeterias in the emirate.
He noted, “The food inspection department of the Municipality has planned to strengthen its strategies for ensuring the adherence of food and public health safety measures by the food service establishments in the emirate.”
“As the hot weather conditions have already taken hold, the vigilance by the food safety officials has been tightened to avoid risks of food poisoning cases that may be increased due to the storage of foodstuff in high temperatures,” Al Ali said.
“The food safety chiefs in all emirates have called for increased vigilance on food poisoning outbreaks, as well as conducting educational campaigns for residents to raise awareness about the dangers of poor food storage and transportation,” he added.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ministry issues occupational health guidelines for summer

4 June 2010, The Gulf Today

A new booklet of occupational guidelines has been released by the Ministry of Health (MoH), aimed at preventing labourers from heat-related risks at workplaces during the summer.
The pamphlet in three languages including Arabic, English and Urdu, has been issued to workers and employers with healthcare instructions and precautions to be adopted at work in the year’s most risky period, according to senior MoH official.
Dr Mahmood Fikri, Executive Director for Health Policies at the MoH, said the book outlines preventive measures from various health stresses and dangers due to the region’s aggressive temperature threat. The awareness material would help to boost a healthy working environment providing protection of workers across the UAE.
“The occupational health services defined in it include labourers’ health control, working environment control, educational, training and information guidance in healthcare, treatment and first-aid programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor (MoL),” he added.
According to Dr Fikri, the booklet will assist employers to guarantee quality in occupational health services for their workers in construction, agricultural, industrial and other fields.
“As the labourers are frequently exposed to the scorching heat of the sun and other risk factors in their working environment, the guidelines emphasizes on the significance of medical tests, and verification of free sample tests of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS and Hepatitis through the initial medical examinations,” he elaborated.
“The booklet has defined types of periodical medical checkups for the labourers, preventive healthcare conditions at work places, tasks and responsibilities of company doctors, health standards connected to the first-aid fund, and changes of medical tests in accordance with the nature and requirements of each occupation and profession”, he pointed out.
Dr Fikr noted, “At least 10 training sessions on preventing of communicable and chronic diseases have been conducted by the MoH last year for 252 trainees from 38 companies and factories on implementing health safety measures at the worksites. Three training courses have been organised since the beginning of this year for 78 trainees from 17 organisations and industries.”
“Professional training programmes for companies are also conducted throughout the year, focused on first-aid treatment, cardiac pulmonary resuscitation, bleeding, burns or fractures, eye injuries, and poisoning, emergency aid, heat stress and sun stroke,” he explained.
“An intensive training session will be held on June.8 and 9 in Al Baraha Hospital in Dubai for a group of 16 trainees of four establishments,” added Dr Fikri.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

WHO’s Dubai Declaration on anti-tobacco policies for GCC countries

The Gulf Today, 1 June 2010

THE GGC countries’ fight against tobacco enters yet another level, with comprehensive policies issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), designed specially for the region.
The WHO’s Mediterranean regional office on Monday has released the “Dubai Declaration” with recommendations on anti-tobacco policies of the GCC countries, on the sidelines of the  World Anti Tobacco Day celeberations organised by the UAE Ministry of Health.
In light of the much anticipated federal anti-tobacco law of the UAE issued in 2009, the WHO has designed six policies to be applied across the region. The policies aim to convert it as a complete tobacco free-zone with continuing efforts until the last cigarette butt is kicked out of the Middle East’s region.
Dr Hussain Gezairy, Eastern Mediterranean Regional Director of the WHO, told the media in Dubai that the policies significantly focus on the integration of a regular surveillance system across the GCC countries. The system will monitor different groups of the people every three or four years about the harmful habit of smoking. “A total ban on the tobacco advertisements and promotions through media or other publicity tools is the second major recommendation for the region. Fifty per cent space on the packages of tobacco products must cover pictorial warnings and messages about the dangers of smoking,” he added.
“In order to reduce the rate of tobacco sale, the WHO has also recommended increase in the retail tax of tobacco products by 70 per cent. A complete ban of smoking in public places across the region is the next policy which even erases designated smoking areas in public places,” explained Dr Gezairy.
According to him, integration of smoking cessation services into primary health care centres is the last one of the WHO anti-smoking policies for the region.
Professor Tawfik Bin Ahmed Khoja, the director general of the GCC Health Ministers’ Council, said, “The policies aim to protect the region’s population from the damages of the deadly habit of tobacco usage, through all possible ways and as determined by the laws passed by each country as mandated by the WHO’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control Guidelines.”
“The region’s decision-makers should adopt the price increasing policies recommended by the WHO in order to put financial pressures on smokers and reduce the consumption rate,” he urged.
“Also, all the corporate groups and companies in the GGC countries are communicated not to deal with tobacco producers or their promoters,” added Dr Khoja.
Each country should coordinate with the tobacco prevention programmes by forming a national anti-tobacco committee, said Dr Fatima Al Awa, the WHO representative for the region.

Plane crash victims’ kin get jobs

The Gulf Today, 28 May 2010

An Abu Dhabi-based healthcare service provider has extended a helping hand to the bereaved relatives of the ill-fated passengers of the recent air crash that occurred at the Bajpe International Airport in South India’s Mangalore city.
About 50 relatives of the victims will be employed at Lifeline Hospital, headquartered in the capital Emirate of the UAE, as the hospital expands its operations with a couple of projects, including new hospitals and other healthcare facilities, announced the hospital authorities.
Speaking at a press conference in Dubai on Thursday, Dr Charles Stanford, the senior director of Lifeline Hospital, said that the purpose of recruiting the relatives of the passed away passengers in the plane disaster is to support the families that lost their sole bread-winners.
“Hopefully, the initiative will identify the tragedy-affected families plunged into substantial financial loss. We intend to sufficiently enable them to maintain a better standard of living in their community,” he added.
The hospital has also announced ten lakhs Indian Rupees for urgent assistance to the families of the victims.
“The first step of the initiative is to identify the individuals within such families who are willing and able to take up the offered employment opportunities. We will provide them professional training, if required,” explained Dr Stanford.
Dr Shajir Gaffar, the Corporate Relations Manager at Lifeline Hospital, said, “We have already requested the Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi to coordinate with the authorities concerned in India to identify the requirements and the numbers of individuals suitable for the scheme.”
“The appointments in the preferred job nature will be based on the educational levels, professional qualifications and experience profiles. The candidates also should be willing to travel outside India,” he added.
“The hospital, with plans to expand its operations in the UAE, Oman and India, will identify potential positions suitable to the details provided. These positions will be within the broad range of the healthcare organisation’s opportunities where suitable. If the applicant is not suitable for healthcare positions, we will arrange them opportunities in other organisations,” explained Dr Gaffar.
“The positions are on permanent basis and offered at the similar payment scheme to those already employed. All the appointed employees will have the same contractual rights as others in the industry,” he pointed out.
According to him, the Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) initiative will inspire other corporate groups to support the air crash victims.
“Lifeline wishes to make a tangible, substantive and sustainable contribution to the well-being of those dependent members of the victim’s families,” noted Dr Gaffar.

Dubai targets women smokers

The Gulf Today, 27 May 2010

THE emirate of Dubai targets women smokers, as their number has increased at 14 per cent of the total smokers in the UAE.
This was announced by Dubai Municipality (DM) on Wednesday when it launched a fresh campaign titled "Tobacco-free Women," at Mall of the Emirates in line with the world no-tobacco day that falls on May 31.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has chosen the theme of this year as "Gender and tobacco, with an emphasis on marketing to women," with a focus on women who are targeted by the tobacco companies to promote their products.
The global anti-tobacco day this year focuses on combating the habit of smoking among women and girls, as their share is comprised of about 20 per cent of the world's total smokers, accounted at over a billion.
The Dubai Municipality is hosting a series of events and activities specially designed for the occasion of the world no-tobacco day. The opening day activities kicked off at 5pm at Mall of the Emirates, which went up to 9pm.
A senior civic officer said that women are also subjected to passive smoking, which is especially dangerous to pregnant women. There is an increase in the number of women smokers in the UAE - especially Shisha smokers.
"The tobacco-free women programme aims at raising awareness on the effects of passive smoking on women, as well as women who smoke in general and pregnant women in particular, while addressing its effects on the health of the foetus and the skin," said a DM spokesperson.
"The campaign will educate women and the public on the dangers of smoking and its negative effects on women and society, and emphasise the importance of a healthy lifestyle for the targeted segment based on healthy habits, food and sports," he added. "It will highlight the efforts of the civic body in providing free medical checks to the public and smokers and creating awareness to stop smoking."
The DM's campaign included activities such as a competition on quitting smoking, during which people who want to quit smoking registered their names in the special forms. The programme will be followed up by the DM's clinic section and a speciality hospital. Details will be announced later on the DM's official web portal.
Meanwhile, the DM will coordinate with the petrol pumps where the staff will wear team shirts of the occasion, and through these stations, leaflets will be distributed to the public, said the spokesperson.
"And for the first time, sales of cigarettes will be stopped for 24 hours on May 31 in petrol stations of Emarat, ENOC and EPPCO and the drivers of the DM vehicles will also be banned from cigarette smoking," he said.
"A mobile awareness exhibition is also being organised, where people will be offered free medical consultations under the supervision of doctors including a gynaecologist, a general practitioner and a skin expert," he added.
"The free examinations include examination of carbon monoxide, examination of the skin to see how dry or flexible they are, examination of the lung to find out how strong it is, and examination of the eye to see how dry they are because of the smoking," explained the DM spokesperson.
According to him, the free medical examinations in Mall of the Emirates will continue until May 28 and free medical checks and medical advice will be offered to smokers and non-smokers among the visitors to the mall.
Similar activities will be arranged at the Dubai Mall on May 29, and on May 30 at Dubai Ladies Club. In addition to the exhibition, free medical check-ups will be offered to members of the women's association branches at Al Towar and Al Barsha.
The DM also organises a symposium as conclusion of the campaign at 10am on May 31 at the City Hall in the Municipality. The winners in the contest to quit smoking will also be honoured there.