Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update October 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update October 2023

New Hostels for Healthcare Workers in Singapore

We have previously reported on the steep increases of rental prices in Singapore. The Straits Times reports that initiatives to alleviate this burden for healthcare professionals are set to be rolled out in the second quarter of 2024. Many expat workers, including nurses, face challenges securing affordable housing in the city-state. Additionally, they encounter issues like housing scams and renting restrictions, such as mandates for tenants to be Mandarin-speaking.

In response to these challenges, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and MOH Holdings (MOHH) have announced plans to prioritize new accommodation options for migrant healthcare workers. This initiative aims to provide them with reliable and reasonably priced housing during their initial two years of employment within the public healthcare sector.

Around 4000 healthcare professionals are due to be hired by the end of 2023. 60% of these will be from overseas, primarily from SE Asia: Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Myanmar, and China. This employment drive is an attempt to renew the healthcare system after the pandemic slowdown. Now that the country is once more opening up, it is seeking medical personnel, but in order to obtain the necessary S Pass, applicants must have a residential address in Singapore. 

Jordache Keith, director of recruitment agency People 360, told the press:

“It is difficult for (foreign healthcare workers) to find housing, and that is one of the major delay points in bringing them into Singapore. It is like apples on a tree, if you can pluck them, but you can’t bring them in, the healthcare system is still stressed.” 

The new hostel measure is designed to streamline the hiring process, but Keith also advises that unless something is done, medical personnel are likely to head for Australia or the Middle East, to employers who offer accommodation as well as a job. The new hostels are intended to provide a low-cost option, with a suggested rent of $250 per month, with networking and community building opportunities for overseas personnel. 

Kuwait: MP Queries Dhaman’s ‘Deliberate Delay’

Last month we reported on medication shortages in Kuwait, along with reports that health insurance premiums might be going up for expats.  MP Osama Al-Shaheen has recently questioned the ‘deliberate delay’ in opening up Dhaman hospitals for expats – a move that has been planned since 2014 and which is estimated to save the state’s public healthcare system around KD 400 million. Al-Shaheen has questioned why 1.8 million expats have not yet been transferred to Dhaman clinics and why the Dhaman operating agreement has not yet been signed.

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Dhaman, however, said in early October that they are likely to be able to begin to offer integrated health services to those in the private sector by the end of 2023, followed by residents working in government posts. If you are an expat in Kuwait, and are expecting to be transferred to a Dhaman clinic, make sure you keep an eye on the situation as it develops. 

The EU Streamlining Social Security for Expats

The EU is intending to improve the digitalisation of information for expats who may be travelling between member states, with a focus on social security and healthcare benefits, such as sick pay, maternity, and equivalent paternity benefits. This would also involve the European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) and an EU Digital Identity wallet (EUDI). Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, responded to the press:

“Today’s Communication contributes to simplifying their lives by facilitating their interactions with national authorities and giving them speedier access to their eligible social benefits from abroad such as pensions or healthcare.”

ESSPASS is aimed at enhancing the mobility of citizens throughout the EU and will digitalise the process of requesting and receiving documents, such as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The new system enables you to access a digital EHIC in advance of travel, for example, and will streamline other aspects of cross border life (for instance, ensuring that you don’t pay double social security contributions). It will also ensure that you can access prescriptions in other member states. 

Qatar: Ministry of Health Clarifies Proposals

Following social media reports that medical treatment fees would be applied to everyone in Qatar, the Ministry of Health has clarified that fees charged at the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are only applicable to visitors at this stage:

“​The ministry explained that the new fees will be applied in the current first phase to visitors to the country, while the new fees will not apply to residents of the country until they are covered by the mandatory health insurance system according to the stages of its implementation.”

The fees will depend on costs at various facilities, and are part of the restructuring of Qatar’s mandatory health insurance for visitors which has been taking place since February. If you are applying for a visitors’ visa to Qatar or a visa extension, you will need health insurance from a government-approved provider (this can include international insurance companies as long as it’s on the MoH list) which covers the duration of your visit. According to the draft resolution, Qatari nationals will be eligible for free medical services at government facilities, but non-nationals will need to be insured.

Swiss Health Insurance Premiums to Rise

For expats in Switzerland, be aware that household health insurance premiums are set to increase by an estimated CHF 359.5. This comes after recent discussions suggesting amendments to the law for Swiss expats, who, as of now, can’t access the Swiss health insurance system while residing outside of the country. Rising healthcare costs in Switzerland, influenced by an ageing population and escalating medication prices, are evident. While these challenges aren’t exclusive to Switzerland, they undoubtedly affect insurance premiums. Nevertheless, a significant portion of Switzerland’s residents opt for private coverage.

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