Far-reaching reforms to Dubai's healthcare system began yesterday in a move to guarantee universal access to front-line treatment.
A new funding programme, managed by the recently formed Dubai Health Authority (DHA), makes it compulsory for all residents in the emirate to register with a clinic.
That clinic will then become the first port of call for all medical problems, except emergencies. People can select their own clinic and do not have to pay a fee to register.
Laila Al Jassmi, who is in charge of funding at DHA, said the change would also free-up specialists' time by directing patients with simple problems to a general practitioner.
"We know there are a lot of people not able to access healthcare," she said. "They might be able to afford the medicine but can't afford to visit a doctor or pay for X-rays but the new system will change this.
"A patient must go to an outpatient care practice where the general practitioner will only refer them to a specialist if necessary.
"People used to go straight there with a headache and lots of tests were done as they were scared of having a brain tumour. The whole process is very expensive and in the end they find it is just a headache."
DHA was founded after it was decided to have two separate bodies to provide and regulate healthcare in Dubai. While the Department of Health and Medical Services (Dohms) used to do both, DHA will now oversee strategic healthcare and maintain the quality of service and delivery.