Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update April 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update April 2023

South East Asian Nations Face Blood Bank Shortages

Expats have been encouraged to check their blood type to avoid any potential issues surrounding transfusion in some South East Asian countries, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported in March 2023. If you have a Rh negative blood type, you could run into problems if you need a transfusion. Dr Issrang Nuchprayoon, professor at Chulalongkorn University and an adviser to the Thai Red Cross, told the press that although there is an ‘adequate’ supply of blood in the Thai healthcare system, there is a shortage of Rh negative. The problem applies not just to Thailand, but also to Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia.

In a recent case, healthcare workers treating a French expat after an accident had to seek assistance from the expat community for blood donors (fortunately they were able to find the required blood, but it took a couple of weeks). Although this isn’t a common occurrence, it is clearly a concern.

The problem stems from mad cow disease in Europe: the healthcare systems of these countries placed a block on French, Irish and British blood donations in case they carried traces of the illness. Readers might be surprised by this, since mad cow disease was a problem in the UK over 20 years ago, but the United States only lifted restrictions on donations last year, and the Thai government followed their lead in February. Hopefully this issue will be resolved soon, but in the meantime, it might be a good idea to check your blood type and see if it is in short supply in South East Asia.

Coffee with an Expat: Abu Dhabi

A series of Coffee with an Expat meet-up groups has been formed in Abu Dhabi to encourage women with shared interests to network and community-build together. Expat Navine Eldesouki founded the networking group in 2019 in Dubai, and the group now has around 5,000 members and is expanding to Abu Dhabi. One of these groups is focused around health and wellbeing, another around parents and children. Other groups include gourmet cooking, a book club, and business networking. So, the focus is not wholly health-related, but the group was founded in part to address mental health issues experienced by expats abroad. Eldesouki told Gulf News:

“I have been an expat for over 24 years and I have struggled with loneliness and the other challenges of settling into new places. I always felt the need to connect with people who understood what I was experiencing and to discuss those challenges in a non-judgemental environment.”

Fathima Medical Center Celebrates its 25th Anniversary

Also in Dubai, the Fathima Medical Center (FMC) has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, from its humble beginnings as a little clinic in Deira, to a large organisation which has pioneered compulsory health insurance and medical security with the government of Dubai. The Dubai Health Authority awarded FMC’s Dr Hussain special recognition for his services, including the data he had collected over the years and his work in persuading companies to pay low premium health insurance for blue collar workers, in 2014.

End of Covid Tests for Travellers from China

Travellers coming into the UK from mainland China will no longer be invited to take a voluntary Covid test from April 5th, the BBC reported last month. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says that the variants of Covid that are currently circulating in China are the same as those in the UK, and that an increased level of transparency and information sharing with the Chinese health authorities, plus the testing programme at Heathrow, suggests that infections have passed their peak. Some contingency measures are in place, but otherwise, say the DHSC, “The ending of this enhanced surveillance is in line with international partners such as the EU who are reducing border measures to monitor new variants from China.” Furthermore, Covid is no longer the leading cause of death in the UK, having fallen behind ‘older age’ diseases such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s.


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This policy move follows not only Europe, but other countries as well: Canada has also stopped testing air passengers from the region, and so has the USA. The relaxation of the rules applies not just to mainland China, but to travellers from Hong Kong and Macau.

Saudi Celebrates World Health Day

On Friday 7th April, Saudi Arabia joined other nations in celebrating World Health Day alongside the World Health Organisation, to whom it has been a major donor since 2018. The Middle Eastern country has contributed in the region of US$385 million to health initiatives in nearby nations, such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Palestine, and also Somalia. We’ve commented before on Saudi Vision 2030, in which the kingdom has stated its aim of putting further funding into state-of-the-art healthcare and upgrading digital health initiatives. It is also looking to fund cutting-edge science, such as developing disease-resistant antibiotics, and is further contributing to the development of the WHO, from medical research to administration.

Healthcare Workers Report Satisfaction at Relocating

We have reported previously on attempts by the Australian authorities to attract UK healthcare workers down under – and their efforts seem to be working, the iNews reported last month. Nurses and other medical professionals interviewed by the newspaper commented on their improved work/life balance, with several interviewees remarking on how they could now go out after work during the week, whereas in the UK their social lives started ‘on Friday.’

“Back home you live to work and here you work to live,” said one Scots expat nurse. Salaries still compare favourably to those in Britain, even though Australia has to some extent been affected by increases in the cost of living. It’s not just nurses whom Australia is hoping to attract: the state of Victoria aims to bring in around 1000 teachers, and Queensland is seeking police officers to swell its current ranks. Expats report a somewhat stressful application process, but that’s often the case when you’re planning to move abroad – nowhere is bureaucracy-free!


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