Concern over huge overseas health bill

December 11, 2012 - 3:15:27 am

DOHA: Qatar spent a whopping QR1.2bn ($328.76m) last year on treatment of its citizens overseas, reflecting the poor satisfaction level of locals with healthcare services in the country.

This was disclosed at a regular session of the Advisory Council here yesterday. The State Cabinet has approved a series of proposals submitted by the Council to improve the quality of healthcare services in the country.

Yesterday’s meeting discussed a memorandum forwarded by the Cabinet intimating its approval of the Council’s recommendations.

Currently, about 2,000 Qatari patients are undergoing treatment abroad under state support, and in 2011 a total of QR1.2bn was spent on citizens who sought treatment in other countries, the Council said, citing the Cabinet’s memo.

Going by statistics released by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) earlier, this shows a significant increase over 2010, when a total of QR780m ($213.7m) was spent on nearly 3,000 citizens who received treatment overseas.

The Council noted that crowding and long waiting time for appointments at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) hospitals, coupled with a lack of confidence in doctors and other healthcare practitioners here are forcing many citizens to look for treatment overseas. “This has been forcing the government to spend huge amounts on their treatment,” said the Council, which had recommended that the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) speed up processing the applications from Qataris seeking treatment abroad since any delay could cause further health complications.

The Cabinet also agreed on a recommendation of the Advisory Council to give priority to Qataris in all healthcare services.

The Council has also proposed to upgrade the premises of the health care facilities with more floors and rooms, install more equipment for X-ray, MRI scan and other medical examinations and increase the number of specialised pharmacies, consultants and nurses at HMC hospitals.

It had called on the authorities speed up the implementation of the national health insurance scheme and give priority to citizens in this process. The SCH has already announced that Qatari women will indeed be the beneficiaries of the first phase of the insurance scheme. 

The scheme is to be launched early next year—which is barely three weeks away.

The Council also recommended improvement of the healthcare services for expatriates by establishing special hospitals and health centres catering to this segment. Three hospitals and five clinics exclusively catering to labourers are already in the pipeline. 

The Cabinet has informed the Council that the health authorities will speed up measures to implement its proposals.

The Peninsula