Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update September 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update September 2023

Kuwait Ministry of Health Announces Vacancies 

The Kuwait Civil Service Commission (CSC) issued instructions in August to the Ministry of Health to lift the hiring ban on expats. Al-Anba Daily reported that the Ministry needs to fill 773 vacancies, across a range of medical personnel. The press says that this reflects a realisation that skills, experience and qualifications are more important than nationality if Kuwait is to address its healthcare needs – not a reversal of recent localisation hiring policies, but perhaps a realisation that this is not necessarily realistic at present.

South Korea’s Private Health Insurance Loopholes

Earlier this summer, South Korea started addressing loopholes in its health insurance system. Authorities believe these are being exploited primarily by Chinese nationals. After diagnoses of conditions like cancer in their homeland, these individuals allegedly claim Korean health insurance benefits. Given the challenges in the Chinese healthcare system and the high regard for Korea’s healthcare quality, the incentive for this is clear. While the focus seems to be on Chinese nationals, the broader expat community in Korea might be impacted. One proposed solution is to raise the investment cap for residency. If you’re considering a move to South Korea soon, it’s essential to stay updated on any changes to residency requirements.

China and Other Nations Lift Remaining Covid-19 Restrictions

The Chinese health authorities have announced that from the end of August 2023 mandatory pre-entry COVID-19 nucleic acid tests or antigen tests will no longer be necessary for entry into China. You may have to show a health declaration form on arrival, but you won’t be tested or need to show the result of a test. You will also be able to travel freely throughout China as regional border Covid regulations have also been removed (although note that this will depend to an extent on your visa – some short-term travel permits might be geographically limited). Mandatory mask wearing has also been lifted unless you are visiting a medical institution.

Starting from March of this year, all pre-pandemic visas were reactivated. This includes multiple-entry visas issued before March 28th, 2020, such as the 10-year visitor visas. If your visa has expired, however, you’ll need to secure a new one through your nearest Chinese Visa Application Service Centre, rather than opting for a consulate or embassy.

If you do contract Covid while you are in China, you are no longer required to go to a quarantine centre but will be asked to self-isolate. It’s advised that you take out private health insurance with COVID-19 cover. 

New Zealand has also lifted its remaining Covid restrictions. The government has scrapped the seven-day mandatory isolation requirement and ended the compulsory mask-wearing mandate in medical facilities. Health Minister Ayesha Verrall told the press:

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“It has been a long road, however thanks to lots of hard work, New Zealand’s COVID-19 approach has moved from an emergency response to sustainable long-term management. While our case numbers will continue to fluctuate, we have not seen the dramatic peaks that characterized COVID-19 rates last year.”

The NZ government reports that Covid was responsible for just over 2% of hospital admissions last winter, with a subsequent lessening of strain on the healthcare system. 

The Philippines also dropped its requirement for a vaccination certificate in August, following the lifting of the state of emergency in the country in July, with the Department of Health noting that “all arriving international travellers are accepted regardless of their vaccination status.”

Medication Shortage Concern in Kuwait

In August, Gulf News highlighted potential concerns for expats in Kuwait who might be facing increased medication fees due to notable shortages. The exact reasons for these shortages remain ambiguous. While supply chain challenges and post-pandemic disruptions have been suggested, there have also been hints of issues with reserves.

There are discussions about possibly revising the fees for expat medication. However, the Ministry of Health is awaiting more comprehensive data before deciding on any changes to the fees. This decision-making process seems to be affecting the progress of the new Daman hospitals and demands a solution.

For those planning to travel to Kuwait, it’s advisable to carry enough medication for the early phase of your visit. Moreover, if you reside in Kuwait, you might have noticed that health insurance premiums have been on the rise. In September, the Dhaman Health Assurance Hospitals Company expressed concerns over the current premium levels. Plans are in motion to incrementally raise these premiums every two years, aiming to hit 190 dinars by the tenth year. Yet, if inflation exceeds 6%, these premiums might increase without formal approval. 

Fees for emergency services and health center reviews are also set to rise. Expats should be prepared to shoulder medical expenses, from surgical procedures and medication to emergencies, hospital stays, and x-rays.

It’s worth noting that Dhaman’s progress is somewhat lagging, attributed to delays in the proper licensing of doctors.

WHO Warns of Measles in Chile

On August 12th, Chile’s IHR National Focal Point informed the WHO of a confirmed measles case within the country. All those in contact with the virus have been traced and vaccinated as required. Measles is highly contagious, and while it often doesn’t pose a severe threat to adults, it remains a primary cause of death among young children globally. Although measles has been eradicated in some regions, the WHO emphasizes the importance of maintaining vigilance to prevent its return. For those with compromised immune systems planning to visit Chile, it’s advisable to review your vaccination status. This precaution is especially vital since measles can result in serious complications, including pneumonia.

Singapore Seen as ‘Medical Stepping Stone’

Singapore has been described as a ‘stepping stone’ for medical personnel, as the city state strives to retain medics trained locally. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Rahayu Mahzam, and CEO of recruitment agency People360 Services, Jordache Keith, say that Singapore is seen as a route to the West by aspiring medics and that this is a concern to the region’s health authorities. Rahayu Mahzam says “We work so hard in providing the training and then when they’re well trained (and leave), it’s a loss to us.”

Singapore’s aging demographic means that around 69,000 medical personnel will be needed by 2025 – the city state currently has around 49,000, meaning that there is currently a shortfall. Many of these medics are from beyond Singapore itself, and the state is aiming to attract more foreign nurses, after a slowdown in overseas medical recruitment during the pandemic. However, it hopes to be able not only to draw them to Singapore – but to keep them, too.

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