I OVERVIEW

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a confederation of seven emirates. The most well-known are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The other emirates are Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm al-Qaiwain and Ras al-Khaimah, often collectively referred to as the 'Northern Emirates'. At the federal level, the UAE operates within a constitutional framework, which makes provision for the health and welfare of the population in that 'the community shall provide all the citizens with medical care and means of prevention and treatment from diseases and epidemics and shall promote the establishment of public and private hospitals, clinics, and treatment houses'.2

The Federal Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOH) oversees the implementation of federal government policy in relation to the provision of comprehensive healthcare for all UAE citizens and residents, and works in collaboration with all health authorities to ensure that all public and private hospitals are accredited according to clear national and international quality standards of medical services and staff.

The emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have established their own health authorities, the Department of Health (DOH), the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and the Sharjah Health Authority, respectively, and have the most developed rules and regulations among the seven emirates with respect to healthcare matters. The emirates of Dubai and Sharjah have also made provision for healthcare investment by establishing healthcare sector free zones, such as the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) and the Sharjah Healthcare City. The remaining Northern Emirates rely on the MOH to act as their regulator to oversee delivery of healthcare services.

The UAE has always looked to other jurisdictions for inspiration in creating a legal framework for the healthcare sector. The priorities are to ensure adherence with international best practice and to support delivery of high-quality medical care to the population. The drive to achieve continuing improvements in healthcare services throughout the UAE is intended to reduce the need for people to travel abroad for specialised treatment, encourage medical tourism, and is a key driver in widening the scope of services provided and building a healthcare sector that is supported by private sector and insurance investment.

II THE HEALTHCARE ECONOMY

i General

The status of the healthcare economy in the UAE is inextricably linked to the general economy and the government's diversification policy away from the oil and gas sector. The indications for the general economy optimistically set in Q1 of 2017 for significant growth in 2017 and 2018 driven by improved oil prices and a continuation of the focus on developing non-oil sectors range from GDP growth of 2.8 per cent in 2017 and 3.3 per cent in 2018, and have since been downgraded by the IMF at the half-year point to 1.3 per cent.3

The healthcare sector has been identified by the government as a key sector for development. The private healthcare expenditure continues to be driven by medical tourism, and the continued roll-out of compulsory health insurance, with recent figures suggesting that the sector is expected to increase in value from US$16.1 billion in 2016 to US$16.96 billion in 2017, representing an increase of 5.3 per cent.4

ii The role of health insurance

The Insurance Authority was established under Federal Law No. 6 of 2007 (on regulating the insurance sector). Mandatory health insurance has begun to be introduced across the UAE. The UAE national Emirati population (and those of similar status) are covered by a government-insured scheme named 'Thiqa', which is administered by the UAE national insurance company, Daman, and provides for a comprehensive range of health insurance cover.

Abu Dhabi was the first emirate to fully implement mandatory health insurance for the expatriate population by Law No. 23 of 2005 (on Abu Dhabi Health Insurance), which provides a basic level of cover for all employees and their families. A similar scheme is currently being implemented in Dubai by Law No. 11 of 2013 (on Dubai Insurance Law) implemented from February 2014 over three phases according to employer workforce size, the last phase being completed in June 2016. Mandatory health insurance for expatriates has yet to reach every emirate in the UAE.

As the government reduces financial commitment to publicly funded services, which are largely accessed only by the Emirati population, the role of health insurance is critical to the ability of the remaining expatriate population to afford and access private medical services and medicines.

iii Funding and payment for specific services

Health insurance does not cover all healthcare needs. While the Thiqa cover for the Emirati population is reasonably comprehensive, recent cutbacks in spending have meant that access to certain Thiqa services has been withdrawn, and similarly, the expatriate population who benefit only from a basic level of cover must pay themselves for many services that are excluded from most policies. The extensive list of uninsured services means that expatriate patients must pay themselves, and in some cases, access services abroad, where they can be significantly cheaper.

III PRIMARY / FAMILY MEDICINE, HOSPITALS AND SOCIAL CARE

i Primary/family medicine

UAE patients can directly access medical specialist consultants without first transitioning through a primary care service. Direct access to specialist services is responsible for pushing up the costs of healthcare for both the government and insurers, with patients 'shopping' for services and seeking advice from a number of specialists for the same complaint.

Direct access is now being curtailed, with primary care becoming an increasing focus for healthcare regulators, in order to improve the coordination of treatment throughout a continuum of care enabling the delivery of healthcare through the entire life cycle, as well the process from initial visit to a primary care physician, throughout the referral process, to the completion of treatment. Such initiatives should result in the development of using the expertise of primary care professionals through care pathways, and coordinated care between primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare services.

The DOH identified the need for primary care gateways as part of the emirate master plan for delivery of healthcare services, and recently issued a standard for primary healthcare services in 2016.5 Similarly, the DHA has approved licences for 20 healthcare centres and clinics around the emirate providing primary healthcare services.

Insurers are increasingly taking the lead on adjusting health insurance policy terms and conditions to require patients to access primary care services and to have appropriate referrals from primary gateway providers before approving fees. In terms of future developments, as the UAE rolls out licensing for telehealth services,6 we also expect the ability of patients to access teleconsultation pathways.

ii Hospitals

Public sector

The main public sector institutions that oversee delivery of healthcare services and quality are the DHA (with its subsidiaries the Healthcare Corporation and the Dubai Healthcare Insurance Corporation (DHIC)), the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and the MOH. Within the scope of secondary care services provided by public hospitals are trauma facilities, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedic, surgical services and the treatment of lifestyle diseases. The policy aim is to overlay these with more specialised services.

The DHA operates Dubai's public healthcare facilities, including Dubai Hospital, Rashid Hospital, Latifa Hospital and Hatta Hospital. It is currently building new facilities and expanding the range of services, including gastroenterology, a kidney transplant centre and specialist paediatric services.

SEHA7 is an independent public joint stock company that owns and operates all public hospitals and clinics across Abu Dhabi, consisting of 12 hospitals, 46 primary healthcare clinics, 10 disease prevention and screening centres, along with mobile clinics, a school clinic, blood banks, dental centres and a vaccination centre.

Mubadala Healthcare, a division of the Abu Dhabi government investment vehicle Mubadala Development Company, has also played a prominent role in the provision of public healthcare services, also catering for privately insured or high net worth self-paying patients. Projects include the Cleveland Clinic-Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint Hospital, the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre and the Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre.

The MOH manages public healthcare services in the Northern Emirates, overseeing 16 hospitals and over 60 clinics. While historically servicing the Emirati population, MOH will soon extend services to all residents, such as through Ras al-Khaimah's flagship Sheikh Khalifa Specialist Hospital under the management of Seoul National University Hospital, and which now offers specialist cancer services.

Private sector

The expansion of the private sector is well advanced and expected to play a significant role in the provision of healthcare in the future, with recent amendments to the Federal Law No. 4 of 2015 (on Private Health Facilities) and Dubai Law No. 22 of 2015 (regulating Private Public Partnership Projects (PPP)). For further details pertaining to private-sector hospitals, see Section IV.

iii Social care

The Ministry of Social Affairs was created to oversee social care in the UAE,8 and largely focuses on development projects for Emirati families and persons with special needs. Since social care laws were first introduced in the 1970s, the concept of social care remains immature. There is very little focus on geriatric or dementia care services, and an underdeveloped network supporting the transition of elderly or vulnerable patients from hospital care to home care with appropriate social care support. This burden is typically left to families.

iv Data and patient health information

The UAE does not have a comprehensive data protection law. Privacy obligations stem from legal duties under the Penal Code as to the use or disclosure of 'secrets' without the consent of the person to whom the secret relates.9 However, we now see the development of new provisions that apply specifically in a healthcare context.

Federal Law No. 7 of 1975 (concerning the Practice of Human Medicine Profession), which governs doctors licensed in the UAE, provides that in the absence of the patient's consent, no doctor has the right to divulge a private secret, either if the patient has directly confided it to him or her, or if he or she has come to know it by him or herself in the course of his or her work.

The MOH Code of Conduct 1988 governing medical practitioners, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals licensed in the UAE requires complete confidentiality of information related to patients (including medical records and personal information related to the patient) and prohibits disclosure without the patient's prior informed consent.

DHCC Regulation No. 7 of 2013 (on Health Data) regulates the use and disclosure of 'Patient Health Information' (including personal information and medical information relating to a patient's physical or mental health) by entities licensed in the DHCC. 

The DOH Data Standard 2008 requires that healthcare providers in the emirate of Abu Dhabi develop and institute policies and procedures relating to 'Confidential Health Information', which includes information that can be used to identify a patient. Policies developed pursuant to the Data Standard are required to ensure that only the minimum necessary personnel have access to confidential health information, and such information must be kept from unauthorised access.

The DHA introduced the 'Salama Electronic Medical Record System' in 2017. This is a unified electronic medical record system currently connecting the government hospitals: Rashid Hospital, Barsha Health Centre, Airport Medical Centre, Dermatology Centre and Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre. In the long term, this scheme will be rolled out to all hospitals in the emirate of Dubai. The DOH is currently working on a similar scheme, but is yet to introduce the necessary law, policy or information technology platform.

IV THE LICENSING OF HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS AND PROFESSIONALS

i Regulators

Ministry of Health and Prevention

The MOH is the federal authority focused on creating a unified set of healthcare policies across the emirates. The MOH also plays the role of the primary health regulator for the Northern Emirates. In general, the MOH's activities include licensing and monitoring healthcare providers and healthcare professionals, administering health prevention and awareness training programmes, and regulating the registration and control of pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Dubai Health Authority

The DHA was established pursuant to Dubai Law No. 13 of 2007 (on Establishing the Dubai Health Authority) and is the health authority regulating healthcare services, healthcare providers and healthcare insurance in the Emirate of Dubai, and certain free zones. Included under the purview of the DHA is regulation of medical education and research.

While the DHA owns and manages public healthcare facilities in Dubai, it is the primary regulator for facilities licensing to the private sector. Facility licence categories include hospitals, day surgical centres, outpatient care facilities (which includes polyclinics, general clinics, dental clinics and specialty clinics), clinical laboratories, diagnostic imaging centres, home healthcare facilities, dental laboratories, school clinics, community pharmacies, optical centres, and complementary and alternative medicine centres.

There are two subsidiaries of the DHA that assist in the management of healthcare in the Emirate of Dubai. Created in accordance to Dubai Decree by Law No. 17 of 2018, the Healthcare Corporation and DHIC support the DHA in managing public health facilities in Dubai and overseeing health insurance services respectively. These two subunits, along with the new changes created under Dubai Law No. 8 of 2018, create a more comprehensive healthcare system for the inhabitants of Dubai.

Dubai Healthcare City Authority

The DHCC free zone is regulated by Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA),10 which is a public corporation established to promote the status of the emirate as an international medical and healthcare hub and which regulates healthcare establishments in the free zone by developing policies and procedures, granting licences and with power to enforce sanctions against violations of the law.

The Dubai Healthcare City Authority – Regulatory (DHCR) is an independent regulatory arm of the DHCA, and is responsible for healthcare facility licensing and healthcare professionals licensing.

Department of Health (Abu Dhabi)

The DOH was established pursuant to Abu Dhabi Law No. 1 of 2007 (on Establishing Health Authority – Abu Dhabi). The DOH owns and operates public healthcare services and is the primary regulator for the private sector, granting facility licences, regulating health insurance providers and healthcare professionals.

Sharjah Health Authority

The Sharjah Health Authority was established by Sharjah Emiri Decree No. 12 of 2010 (amended by Emiri Decree No. 33 of 2016) and regulates Sharjah's healthcare system.

ii Institutional healthcare providers

In this section, we focus on the licensing and approval regime for private healthcare facilities. All private healthcare facilities must operate under a licence granted either by their governing regulator, typically the DHA through the Healthcare Corporation, the DHCA or the DOH, or by the MOH (as delegated to the local emirate municipality) in the case of the Northern Emirates.

Federal Law No. 4 of 2015 (on Private Health Facilities) regulates the licensing of private healthcare facilities (except in the DHCC, which operates its own licensing system). The procedure for obtaining a licence entails making an online application to the regulator providing basic information in order to obtain an initial approval.

It is a requirement of the law that the facility licence be issued in the name of a UAE national person rather than a corporate entity. The application process then dives into further detail, with the applicant having to follow and conform to hospital or clinic planning, design and commissioning requirements applicable to the emirate and ensure the facility is constructed to approve local standards.

The applicant must choose from a range of permitted activities, such as hospital, clinic, dental clinic and rehabilitation clinic. The activity categories can vary slightly in each emirate.

The application will be subject to stringent scrutiny with a number of physical inspections of the facility while under development (or refurbishment) before the grant of the final licence. Time frames can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the project.

The process of appealing against the refusal to grant a licensing application entails issuing an appeal in writing to the Minister of Health or the head of the health authority within 30 days as of the date of notifying of the denial decision. A further grievance may be appealed to a competent court.

There are no exceptions to the requirement to obtain a facility licence. The licence must then be renewed periodically; the renewal period can vary and can be from one to five years. A breach of the licence conditions empowers the regulator to take disciplinary action, which usually takes the form of additional conditions being placed on a licence, suspension or revocation of the licence.

A penalty may also be applied against a general manager of a private facility, with potential sanctions including imprisonment for a period of no less than six months and a fine of no less than 100,000 dirhams.

iii Healthcare professionals

No person may practise a healthcare profession in the UAE without first being licensed by the respective health authority. A healthcare professional's licence is directly linked to a healthcare facility. All practising health professionals must have a designated facility sponsor whose name appears on their health professional licence. Thus, healthcare professionals who are not affiliated with a facility may apply for licensure at the relevant authority and receive a letter of eligibility while seeking employment, but may not practise the profession until a final licence is issued in connection with an employing healthcare facility.

If an individual is discovered to be practising a health profession without the appropriate licence from the appropriate authority, civil and criminal penalties may be issued to the individual and the facility at which the individual is carrying out such activities.

In the Emirate of Dubai, the DHCR and the DHA have purview to regulate healthcare professionals in the emirate. The DHA is the sole authority authorised to issue a licence to practise medicine and other healthcare professionals operating in Dubai, outside of the DHCC. Within the DHCC, the DHCR is responsible for regulating the facilities and professionals operating therein. Each authority, the DHCR and the DHA, has the charge to supervise, regulate and discipline healthcare professionals operating in its jurisdiction. Overseas visiting healthcare professionals are also required to obtain a DHA licence to practise their profession in the emirate of Dubai.

The DOH regulates healthcare professionals practising in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and maintains a similar online portal and applications process as the DHA. The MOH regulates health professionals practising in the Northern Emirates and in certain facilities regulated by the MOH.

Unified qualification requirements

The framework for healthcare professional licensure has been brought under a unified process by virtue of the Healthcare Professionals Qualification Requirements 2014 (PQR), jointly issued by the MOH, the DHA and the DOH in order to standardise healthcare professional requirements across the emirates. While the PQR has been adopted across the authorities, each authority still maintains its individual regulatory purview to approve and issue licences in its respective emirate. Consequently, the PQR acts as a baseline for the authorities to assess the documents submitted by healthcare professionals within their geographical jurisdiction, but does not unify the licensing approvals. Thus, if a healthcare professional practising in Abu Dhabi with a DOH licence moves to Dubai, an application will need to be made to the DHA for transfer of the licence, or granting of a new licence, by the DHA.

With regard to foreign licences, healthcare professionals who successfully complete one of the international examinations listed in the PQR, or hold an active registration or licence to practice with certain regulatory bodies, will be exempt from the assessment required to obtain the professional licence. A valid 'Certificate of Current Status' confirming good standing registration of the applicant issued by the registration or licensing authority at the time of application will be required. The other requirements will also still apply, however, including credentialling, experience and primary source verification. If a healthcare professional exceeds two years of gap of practice, the assessment exemption policy will not apply.

V NEGLIGENCE LIABILITY

i Overview

The UAE is a civil law jurisdiction with statutory codes governing most areas of substantive law.11 The Constitution provides that all laws in the UAE are subject to the overlay of the shariah (principles of Islamic law).12 Judicial authority is vested in its courts. A federal judiciary is based in Abu Dhabi and administered by the Ministry of Justice. The emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras al-Khaimah have each elected to maintain their own local judicial systems. The courts follow the Civil Procedure Code, which provides very broad grounds for the courts' jurisdiction. All cases are tried before judges. Civil matters are dealt with by way of written submissions. There is no full trial with oral testimony.

The courts can (and often do) refer cases that involve technical issues or complex fact situations to court-appointed experts. These experts conduct investigations and provide reports to the courts on the issues within their scope of work.

The official language of the UAE (and the courts) is Arabic, and all documentation brought before the courts in respect of any dispute must be in Arabic or accompanied by certified Arabic translations.

Liability of healthcare providers

There are a number of ways in which healthcare providers are exposed to liability, potential legal claims and regulatory actions.

A patient is entitled to lodge a complaint with his or her regulator regarding the conduct of healthcare practitioners or providers. A complaint is investigated in accordance with the established procedure in the emirate in which the patient received healthcare services. There is variation in the process and approach in each emirate. The regulator may take disciplinary action against a provider or practitioner, with conditions imposed on a provider or professional licence, including suspension or revocation. In cases where there is sufficient evidence of malpractice, the regulator has further power to refer the matter to a medical liability committee convened under law, and ultimately to the courts.

The Medical Liability Law

The Federal Law No. 4 of 2016 (on Medical Liability) has brought several changes to the previous law, Federal Law No. 10 of 2008, which has been repealed.

The Medical Liability Law requires all medical malpractice claims to be referred to a new Medical Liability Committee before they are reviewed by the judicial authorities. It also affords protection and relief to doctors in criminal proceedings by prohibiting their arrest, imprisonment, and investigation before the authorities until the Medical Liability Committee issues a final report. The Medical Liability Law also introduces stringent penalties against medical practitioners who commit gross medical errors.

Civil court claims

Subject to the restrictions imposed upon pursuing a civil claim under the Medical Liability Law, a patient can take a medical complaint before the civil courts to claim monetary compensation against healthcare providers and professionals for material, moral and psychological damages.

The legal burden of proof requires that the patient must establish that the healthcare professional was at fault. When assessing damages, the court will examine the harm suffered by the patient, the healthcare professional's actions or omissions, and the causal link. The criterion for the entitlement of an aggrieved party to compensation is that the damage should have been suffered as a direct result of the causal fault.13

When awarding compensation for damages, the guiding principle in accordance with the Civil Code is that compensation should be equal to the harm suffered. Damages are the remedy that is used to restore the victim to the position they were in prior to the harm suffered. Direct damages, loss of profit, loss of opportunity, consequential damages and moral damages are types of damages recognised under UAE law. 

ii Notable cases

The UAE is a civil code jurisdiction where the concept of legal precedent does not apply. Judges are under no obligation to take previous court decisions into consideration in an action before them, although prior rulings of the appellate courts have persuasive authority and are routinely sited by litigants in their pleadings and by the courts in their judgments.

VI OWNERSHIP OF HEALTHCARE BUSINESSES

Statutory restrictions are in place that prevent foreign companies establishing wholly owned healthcare businesses, and require local partner involvement for most projects.14 Each company established in the UAE must have one or more UAE national partners who holds at least 51 per cent of the company's capital. Companies established in free zones are exempt from the 51 per cent requirement, if the relevant free zone has special provisions regulating the company, in which case, where the services are established in a healthcare free zone, this would permit 100 per cent foreign ownership.

The UAE Federal Law No. 4 of 2012 (regulating competition) regulates anticompetitive practices, prohibiting: restrictive agreements, dominant position (market share of the establishment exceeds 40 per cent of the total transactions in the relevant market), and economic concentrations (application for approval should be submitted to a committee prior to concluding the relevant contract and applies to share acquisitions, transfers of assets and liabilities and should be made where the market share of the parties exceeds 40 per cent of the total transactions undertaken in the relevant market).15

VII COMMISSIONING AND PROCUREMENT

The commissioning of healthcare services is government-led in terms of the policy position.16 The MOH, Dubai and Abu Dhabi health authorities dictate policy, identify what services are required, and determine whether these should be provided by public or private sector investment.

The DHA has upgraded services at the government-owned Rashid Hospital and has also completed the development of a medical university, the University of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid for Medicine and Health Sciences, which will train medical students, along with establishing 40 primary healthcare centres and three new hospitals, as well as three new medical colleges and five nursing schools by 2025. The DHA now expects the private sector to either step in with operation and management agreements to run the existing facilities or proposals to develop the new facilities through public–private partnership.

In Abu Dhabi, Johns Hopkins Medicine has had a long association with the government hospitals operator SEHA and has worked with the DOH in completing a master capacity plan, analysing a vast amount of population, demographic and healthcare data across the emirate to identify gaps in the provision of services and to prioritise what services will be required in future years. The private sector is expected to take a leading role in developing new services or re-commissioning existing provision, with international brands committing to significant investment in large healthcare infrastructure projects, such as the 364-bed Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi (a Mubadala project), which also supports the public sector through a long-standing relationship with the government hospital, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

VIII MARKETING AND PROMOTION OF SERVICES

All advertising must comply with the MOH Healthcare Advertising Regulation.17 The Healthcare Advertising Regulation contains a comprehensive list of matters that are relevant to healthcare advertising. 

The MOH must formally approve all advertising content by way of an application and approval process, which leads to the MOH giving a reference number that must be cited on all advertising material.

The MOH will take into account prohibitions on advertisements in poor taste, misleading statements of a medical nature, misleading statements of a comparative nature, and misleading statements of a general nature, as well as on sales incentives directed to certain persons. The prohibitions of advertisements that breach good taste are basically couched in terms of prejudice to public morals, and violation of the customs and traditions of UAE society or Islamic values. 

IX FUTURE OUTLOOK AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES

i Fertility treatment services

Fertility treatment services are regulated pursuant to UAE Federal Law No. 11 of 2008 (concerning the licensing of fertilisation centres). Governmental approvals are contingent upon satisfaction of numerous requirements, including facilities, equipment and staffing with appropriate professional personnel.

The regulations lag significantly behind other mature jurisdictions governing similar services, such as in the United Kingdom, with restrictions upon the freezing and storing of embryos.

However, the UAE has already made significant advancements in a cultural change to allow such services to be offered in order to offer treatment services to the Emirati population, which it is hoped will boost numbers in view of the region having a high rate of infertility problems derived from levels of vitamin D deficiency, obesity and consanguineous family history, giving rise to a dwindling population. Government-controlled fertility clinics, such as the Al Ain Fertility clinic, are able to offer up to three fully funded cycles of treatment to Emirati families under the Thiqa insurance scheme with no co-payment element.

ii Initiatives around wellness, obesity, diabetes and heart disease

A national agenda, the 'Emirates Vision 2021' emphasises the importance of preventive medicine to combat an increase in the prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases and to identify and treat cancer,18 which is the third-leading cause of death in the country, after heart disease and accidents.

There are a number of public, private and corporate sector initiatives to promote wellness and combat the prevalence of lifestyle diseases, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In Abu Dhabi, the 'Weqaya' has been in place for many years and was created to target the Emirati population. The DOH more recently introduced a wellness and prevention priority strategy in 2014.

The DHA has included within the scope of practice for licensed practitioners the responsibility for wellness visits. The DHA has run also pilot projects, collecting health data from fitness tracking devices and apps. Dubai residents who adopt healthy steps, such as eating healthily and exercising, are rewarded with incentives such as free or discounted gym membership.

The DHCC launched phase two of its free zone development in 2016, which saw an expansion into wellness, a focus on the continuum of care, and will drive wellness tourism, together with medical tourism, in line with the government's health policy initiatives. The new facility licensing scheme will focus on providers of rehabilitation and wellness services that will be permitted to locate in a designated 'wellness cluster' with provision for the following categories of wellness services: personal care (which will include weight loss services), a wellness studio, medical tourism and residential care homes (assisted living in a retirement village environment).19

iii Organ donation – opt-in or opt-out

Federal Law No. 5 of 2016 (regulating organ transplants) further progressed the existing legal framework20 that enables the transplant of tissue or organs from either live or deceased patients. The law makes a provision equivalent to 'opt-in', in that cases are considered on a case-by-case basis. There is currently no system in place for carrying a donor card. The law makes provisions regarding the health, consent and will of the donor.

The law also prohibits trafficking of human organs, which is further prohibited under Federal Law No. 51 of 2006 (on Combating Human Trafficking Crime).

Over 100 kidney transplants have been performed at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City hospital in Abu Dhabi, with the first kidney transplant carried out in Dubai at the Mohammad Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Mediclinic City Hospital in 2016.

iv Public-private partnerships (PPPs)

With the rapid growth in both population and the diversification of the economy, the UAE, and more particularly the DHA, have begun to discuss how to promote the introduction of more PPPs into the healthcare system. The DHA had created an Investment Strategy that wishes to 'promote Dubai as a viable and competitive hub for investment in healthcare that address the needs of the Emirate and the future opportunities, and provide the best service for investors and enable sustainable public-private model in Dubai'.21

Initiatives range from creating incentives to promote PPP investment to reviewing and implementing regulatory changes that might encourage investment. A new piece of legislation is expected to be decreed this year regarding PPPs in healthcare. These new and rapid changes are creating an enticing opportunity for foreign investment.

X CONCLUSIONS

The UAE healthcare sector is expanding rapidly. Regulators have adopted a series of long-term initiatives to create a healthcare sector that will be fit for purpose and guide the sustainable growth of this sector, supported by a legal framework created with reference to equivalent laws in other international jurisdictions and creating an environment where private and foreign investment can thrive.


Footnotes

1 Andrea Tithecott is a partner and head of regulatory practice at Al Tamimi & Company.

2 Article 19 UAE Constitution of 1971, as amended.

3 Emirates NBD Research, 17 July 2017, IMF annual Article IV report.

4 BMI UAE pharmaceuticals and healthcare report Q3 2017.

5 DOH Standard for Primary Health Care in Emirate of Abu Dhabi HAAD/PHC/SD/0.9.

6 Dubai Regulation No. 30 of 2017 regulating telehealth; DOH Standards on teleconsultation, TC/SD/0 2014.

7 Established by Abu Dhabi Emiri Decree No. 10 of 2007.

8 Federal Decree Law No. (1) of 1972 concerning the Competences of the Ministries, as amended.

9 Article 379 Penal Code Law No. 3 of 1987.

10 Dubai Law No. 9 of 2011 (concerning Dubai Healthcare City).

11 The Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 (Civil Code).

12 Article 7 UAE Constitution 1971, as amended.

13 Articles 282, 292, 389 Federal Law No. 5 of 1985 (Civil Code).

14 Federal Law No. 2 of 2015 regulating Commercial Companies.

15 Executive Regulations (Council of Ministers' Resolution No. 37 of 2014) Cabinet Resolutions (Resolution Nos 13 and 22 of 2016). 

16 Emirates Vision 2021.

17 Cabinet Resolution No. 7 of 2007 (regarding Health Advertisements Regulation).

18 UAE Vision 2021 World Class Healthcare.

19 Rule No. 1 Concerning Permitted Activities and Licensing Categories for Dubai Healthcare City Effective 1 December 2016 RU/RL/002/01.

20 Federal Law No. 15 of 1993 Regulating the Transfer and Transplant of Human Organs.

21 DHA Investment Strategy 2017–20.