By TBY | Kuwait | Feb 23, 2016
Like many other GCC countries, Kuwait relies heavily on government funding to meet its healthcare infrastructure needs, with the state contributing over 80% of total investment in the sector. The […]
Like many other GCC countries, Kuwait relies heavily on government funding to meet its healthcare infrastructure needs, with the state contributing over 80% of total investment in the sector. The MoH has allocated a massive budget—$4.37 million—toward seven healthcare projects in the country, either newly built or expansion projects, many of which are already underway according to the Kuwait Times. Additionally, for several years, a large portion of the Ministry of Health’s budget has been spent on sending Kuwaiti citizens abroad to receive treatment when gaps in the local healthcare provision prove inadequate or when certain treatments are simply not available in Kuwaiti hospitals. To put it in numbers, an estimated $702 million was spent by the Kuwaiti government on treatment abroad from 2013-14, according to Ministry of Health (MoH) data. Local capacity building is required in order to ensure that the right quality of care can be provided locally, reducing expenditures in the longer term. The MoH is paying even closer attention, as Kuwait’s state budget drops as a result of depressed oil prices on the global market.
The MoH’s flagship capacity-building project is the Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah Hospital, the largest of the Ministry’s planned hospital developments. Designed as a multi-purpose city, it will be the largest medical center in the country, adding about 1,200 beds to the total national capacity, with state-of-the-art medical equipment and services. The hospital is being built in Kuwait’s South Surra area, and will be open in 2016.
When it comes to expatriate care, the government is encouraging the use of private facilities. Back in 2014, as part of a PPP model, the Kuwaiti government set up a shareholding company with $756.5 million in capital, of which it owns 24%, to establish three hospitals with a total 700-bed capacity, as well as 15 polyclinics that would service expatriate healthcare needs.
Kuwait’s healthcare workforce is dominated by expatriates, and the sector is experiencing major challenges in attracting, retaining, and developing local human capital. Fostering the talents of more Kuwaiti nationals in the sector would create a more sustainable system, as there is currently a shortage of Kuwaiti healthcare professionals and a lack of qualified physicians, nurses, and paramedics in the sector. Dr. Mohammad H. Al Mutairi, President of the Kuwait Medical Association, explained the issues facing the sector in an interview with TBY: “There is an actual shortage in the number of doctors compared to the fast-growing population and the expansion of the health sector. This is not peculiar to Kuwait, as it is a challenge facing several developing countries around the world. Yet Kuwait is also having difficulties in retaining its doctors, as competitive employment offers in the private sector in other Gulf countries are more attractive compared to the government sector. Kuwait is also experiencing shortages in certain specialties, such as critical care doctors, and we also lack a set of local practice guidelines to organize the specialty.“
Increasing local capacity in the healthcare sector, by adding beds and raising the number of qualified Kuwaiti medical professionals employed in the sector will serve to build a stronger healthcare system in Kuwait.
In addition, a continued emphasis on quality of care, preventative instead of curative treatments, and the promotion of healthier lifestyle habits will also be key to enhancing the overall health of Kuwaiti society, and will reduce the burden on state expenditure. As the nation’s expanding population places increased pressures on the sector’s ability to meet demand, investing in healthcare is not just a top priority but a necessity for the effective realization of the government’s vision for the future.