| Qatar | Mar 26, 2015
It is not surprising then, that according to a GCC healthcare industry report released in 2014 by investment bank Alpen Capital, Qatar is projected to experience a 14.4% growth rate […]
It is not surprising then, that according to a GCC healthcare industry report released in 2014 by investment bank Alpen Capital, Qatar is projected to experience a 14.4% growth rate in its healthcare industry between now and 2018. This is simply a continuation of the recent trend that saw Qatar take the prize for being the fastest growing healthcare market in the GCC region between 2006-2011, with a compound annual growth rate of 23%. At the moment, the government is spending a modest 1.9%-2.2% of GDP on health, which equates to about $1,715-$1,805 per capita, according to 2012-13 figures. The average GCC spending on healthcare is higher than Qatar’s at 3% of GDP. By comparison, Western European levels are considerably higher at 10.7% according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, meaning Qatar still has some catching up to do both regionally and globally, despite the government already having increased its healthcare budget considerably YoY. For example, between the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 financial years the Qatari government increased its health budget by a whopping 47%, (bqdoha.com data).
AUDITING RESOURCES & BUILDING CAPACITY
Looking at the nuts and bolts of the system, 30 years ago, in 1984, Qatar had 13.7 physicians and 35.3 nurses for every 10,000 people. Of these health professionals, private sector doctors accounted for a mere 0.7 per 10,0000 head of population, and there were no private sector nurses in Qatar at all. By 2008, just prior to the establishment of the Supreme Council of Health, the overall numbers of medical professionals had increased substantially in Qatar to 31.8 doctors and 58.2 nurses for every 10,000 people. And of these 12.6 doctors and 7.2 nurses per 10,000 were engaged by the private sector. Now, according to the latest Ministry of Development Planning & Statistics health services data from April 2014, levels have remained stable with the number of doctors per 10,000 head of population down marginally to 31.6. For nurses the ratio has fallen marginally to 58.1 per 10,000 people. Over this same period of 2008 to 2014, the population of Qatar has gone from around 1.5 million to 2.2 million, meaning that in real terms the ratio of doctors and nurses caring for the public is currently keeping pace with the country’s population growth. The picture is similar for hospital bed numbers. In 2008 there were approximately 14 hospital beds available for every 10,000 people, and now the figure is around 12 beds per 10,000 people. For its part, the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), the main public healthcare provider in Qatar, has the goal of doubling its bed capacity by 2022 to meet the sector’s increasing needs.
In 2014 HMC also took a significant step towards the future provision of wide-reaching medical services in-country when the government signed off on its new HBKMC Project. The plan is to unite and substantially augment the current resources of the Hamad General Hospital and the Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City to create the single largest healthcare complex in the Middle East. The $653 million medical complex’s facilities will include specialist hospitals and clinics such as a women’s hospital, ambulatory and minimally invasive surgical hospital, a physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital, as well as educational and research institutions involving overseas partners, according to Doha News. Construction is already underway on aspects of this megaproject. Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari HMC’s Managing Director told TBY “These ambitious plans will not just serve the existing needs of Qatar’s population. HMC’s vision is to deliver the next generation of healthcare facilities and build a legacy of healthcare expertise across Qatar.” After a visit to the construction site in January 2015, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani said it should be completed and fully equipped by mid-year, after a series of delays.
UNIVERSAL INSURANCE ROLL OUT
Arguably one of the most significant developments for Qatar in 2014 in terms of its healthcare system was the progress being made in the country’s universal insurance roll out as part of the country’s Qatar National Health Strategy 2011-2015. The groundwork was laid in 2013 when the country enacted the Social Health Insurance Law No. 7 as push to fulfill the goals of the Qatar’s human development pillar, one of four pillars under the National Vision (QNV) 2030. The Social Health Insurance Scheme (SHI) was thereby born with the aim of ensuring universal access to standardized, high quality healthcare for all Qatar’s residents. Phase II of SHI was introduced at the end of April 2014 meaning the scheme now covers all Qatari nationals for all basic healthcare services, and the current implementation timetable expects full implementation by the end of 2015. Dr. Faleh Mohamed Hussein Ali, Acting CEO of the National Health Insurance Company (NHIC), the government-owned entity charged with administering SHI, is pleased with the way the scheme is rolling out so far. He told TBY, “As of August 23, 2014, we had just over 300,000 doctor and hospital visits by SHI members, 266,000 of which have taken place since the launch of stage two… in terms of challenges, the hardest part is now behind us.” In 2015, the scheme will be extended again to fully cover all residents, whether nationals or not, and then ultimately all visitors to Qatar.
Another noteworthy aspect of SHI is its activity based funding scheme, making Qatar the first country in the region to fully implement such a scheme, as well as the first in the region to implement its own outpatient classification system. Benefits for the regulator and providers of activity based funding include the transparency of future and current utilization, efficiency, and quality to health services. Both public and public sector providers have the chance to join the National Health Insurance Company’s (NHIC) provider network.
With both the UN and WHO viewing universal healthcare as a key building block for national development, Qatar is currently making significant progress toward meeting international expectations within these organizations. The extension of SHI to non-nationals is also an important health safety net in light of the number of foreign nations currently working in the country.
DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONERS
An important project within the development of Qatar’s National Health Policy—one of seven of the National Health Strategy’s goals—is the ongoing establishment of the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP). QHCP is to be the regulatory body for all healthcare practitioners in the state Qatar, and in January 2015, the SCH announced the completion of “A Framework for Continuous Medical Education (CME)/Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in Qatar”—a key output of the National Health Strategy 2011-2016 (NHS). The new policy will require fulfillment of CPD credits by healthcare practitioners for licensure renewal, and will be implemented by January 2016. The CME/CPD accreditation system is a unified system for all healthcare practitioners.
Another achievement for Qatar in developing its healthcare practitioners in 2015 was the accreditation of the Continuing Professional Pharmacy Development Program (CPPD) at the College of Pharmacy in Qatar University. Healthcare providers in Qatar will now have access to training and professional development programs because of the accreditation. Qatar University also received the American Council of Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accreditation in January 2014, and in September 2014, CPPD was awarded the GCC Outstanding Educational Award.
2014 was a landmark year for progress in Qatar’s NHS 2011-2016, and 2015 is expected to be no less ambitious. The country expects to open six new public health centers in 2014, some of which will be tendered out to be run by private operators, Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) told Gulf Times. To meet Qatar’s rising demand, the new centers will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, located in Al Karana, Al Ghwaireya, Al Roda, Rawdat Al Khail, Al Ebb, and Umm Salal. As a testament to Qatar’s ambitions to be a global healthcare leader, a major three-day medical exhibition and conference will also be held in May 2015 at the Qatar National Convention Center, Qatar International Medical Congress. According to Trade Arabia, the convention will focus on the medical industry’s growth globally as well as regionally, but will focus on the developing role Qatar is playing in the medical sector. Tying in the broader goals of QNV 2030 with the stark challenges facing Qatar’s health sector, the event will gather the industry’s leading entrepreneurs as well as present cutting-edge diabetes, cancer, and biomedical research, Abdulla Abdulrazzaq Haidar, CEO of the event, said, “QIMC 2015 represents the QNV 2030, which seeks to permanently support events that will lay the foundations of a healthy and strong society, encouraging innovation in the field of health care in Qatar.”