Medical practitioners could see their licences suspended if they do not adhere to the new healthcare regulations rolled out by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) as part of its patient safety agenda.
Announced at the ongoing Arab Health Congress and Exhibition, the nine regulations include six new services and three updates that will standardise medical procedures, while also laying down guidelines for scope of practice for general physicians, family medicine and obstetrics-gynaecology.
Addressing the media, DHA's Director of Health Regulation, Dr Layla Al Marzouqi said: "These regulations have been implemented with the goal of keeping patient safety as our number one priority.
"With these regulations, we are introducing new services that were earlier not available to UAE residents, such as specialised oncology centres, a Sleep Lab and a Hyperbaric Chamber.
"Meanwhile, services such as Laser Hair Reduction and Hair Transplant are services that have already existed but needed an upgraded list of guidelines to benefit the end patient with better medical practices."
From hair removal to Sleep Labs
According to Dr Marzouqi, cosmetic and aesthetic procedures were growing in demand with residents, while fuelling a growth in medical tourism.
She further said: "This prompted us to further regulate the Laser and IPL Hair Reduction standards to make this practice safer and more transparent."
Hair transplants were another big draw that required a guideline update, while Colon Hydrotherapy (Colon Irrigation) guidelines have now also been set.
Of the new regulations, Oncology Services emerged as a big one, with Dr Marzouqi saying the rising number of incidents and medical care required prompted this move.
The regulation includes detailed requirements for health investment in this field so that new services are not duplicated and priority is given to investors who bring in services that are in demand or are needed in the field of oncology.
Sleep Labs emerged as another new player, with the DHA stating its inclusion was due to the growth and demand of this service.
Dr Marzouqi added: "It was similar with the introduction of the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Service Standards, which is the first of its kind in the UAE and required further transparency with growing demand for patients with diabetes."
Guidelines for general to family physicians
Dr Mohammed Oussama Al Kayali, DHA's Head of Regulation Section further outlined the scope of practices and clinical responsibilities for general practitioners, family medicine and gynecology.
He stated: "Different countries have different standards of the scope of practice for a general practitioner and a physician specialising in family medicine. The regulation now sets correct guidelines thereby a medical practitioner with a degree will fall under the title of a GP, while family medicine would include more specialised services, which include other services.
"It was essential to draw out these guidelines to introduce safe medical practices to the industry."
During the development stage, the DHA stated it had brought on board subject matter experts to help develop these regulations to take into consideration the medical and practical aspects of compliance.
Dr Marzouqi said that Health Regulation Department shared the draft of the new regulations and published it on the website for consultation and review by healthcare professionals and for public review and feedback.
Quizzed whether medical practices will be penalised if they don't adhere to these regulations and Dr Marzouqi stated a tough stance will be taken.
She added: "The penalty will administered following an investigation and will depend on the type of concern that has been raised.
"If the matter is serious, the hospital or clinic can face a warning letter, followed by a financial fine if it’s a repeated offender, and in some cases, lose its licence."