An Expat Guide To Healthcare In Bahrain
The perfect blend of modernity and history can be found on the archipelago of Bahrain. Anyone interested in exploring the lifestyle of the Gulf countries should therefore think about moving to area, as the place is a lot more liberal than its neighbors, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Arabic traditions, beliefs and value systems are deeply rooted.The expat community in the nation has reached a sizeable number of 500,000 individuals, which is close to 25% of its population. This is primarily because the Kingdom of Bahrain offers high living standards along with a stable economy, with great earning potential. At the same time, it is also known for its excellent medical care facilities and services.
In most places, including the Middle East, the best medical facilities and practitioners are located in the major towns and cities, while people living in the outlying areas suffer from a dearth of good hospitals. Fortunately, Bahrain is a small island and you are never far away from a modern, state-of-the-art hospital.
According to the World Health Organization, the country’s healthcare system has improved significantly in the last three decades, with its solid infrastructure and numerous options for treatment in the public as well as the private sectors. The government has taken several measures to create a world-class medical system.
Public healthcare is divided into three sectors: primary, secondary and tertiary. In addition to the state-run facilities and private clinics, the residents can choose to get treated at specialty hospitals too.
The island has more doctors and nurses per resident than any other country in the Middle East. The waiting lines are therefore quite short and you can expect to see a medical consultant within 24 to 48 hours of asking for an appointment. Emergency cases are tended to immediately.
The majority of the Bahraini medical staff have received a part of their training in the US or the UK and it is therefore easy to find doctors and nurses who speak fluent English. Language may still be a barrier for expats who find themselves in an emergency situation though.
On the downside, the economic boom has brought in expats from across the globe in huge numbers, which has put a considerable strain on the system. The state is therefore required to take additional steps that address the lack of resources. Moreover, medical care is not free for expats; you are likely to have to pay for the services you use.
The health expenditure in this country is among the highest in the region. As a result, the infrastructure of the public healthcare system is excellent, which includes four state-run hospitals and four medical universities. The facilities and services of the public sector are almost on par with private healthcare in other parts of the world.
All citizens of Bahrain have access to free or heavily subsidized medical attention. However, for more specialized treatment, they may have to rely on the private sector, or medical facilities overseas. While state healthcare is available to expats too, the government has been pushing businesses to provide their employees with medical insurance so that the burden on the national budget is reduced.
The three stages of healthcare within the system are:
Primary: This is the cornerstone of healthcare available across the Kingdom. It represents the first line of contact and is supported by a robust referral system that has been established with Secondary care. Primary services are provided by the Ministry, through 22 health centers. All citizens are treated for free while expatriates pay no more than 3 Bahrain Dinar or BD (US $ 8, £ 6.20, € 7) per visit. A wide range of curative and preventive services are covered under this stage.
Secondary: The Ministry of Health offers secondary healthcare services through several hospitals (mainly Salmaniya Medical Complex or SMC). Patients are admitted into a ward, depending on their condition and type of disease. Age and gender are also often taken into consideration. Anyone who requires immediate medical attention is admitted into an inpatient bed as an emergency admission. If the problem isn’t too serious, a patient may be waitlisted and admitted on a later date, depending on the availability of a doctor or a bed.
Tertiary: Anyone who is travelling to Bahrain as a visitor is entitled to tertiary healthcare. This treatment will be provided under the public healthcare system if a Population Registration Card has been obtained. However, it will not be free for foreigners.
If you are visiting Bahrain, make sure that you have adequate travel insurance, which covers you for private treatment; however, you will also be able to access the medical services of the state in case of an emergency.
If you are looking for a higher level of care than basic employer-issued policies offer, it is best for you to utilize the network of private healthcare facilities across the country. Since the quality is far superior to the public sector, you are likely to pay a lot more for private healthcare. It is therefore best to obtain private health insurance cover. A majority of expats settled in this country sign up for a voluntary plan and pay for it themselves. Professionals from the US, UK, Canada and Australia usually ask for a comprehensive family health insurance plan as a part of their package.
However, in the current scenario, while all expats should have insurance, it is not mandatory for the employers to provide them with a cover. For example, companies that have fewer than 50 employees have to contribute funds to the government; this will take care of the basic health insurance cost on the employees’ behalf. Larger companies have better options. It has therefore become common practice for expats to sign up for private health insurance on their own.
Some people make the mistake of assuming that their private health insurance policy from their home countries will be valid in Bahrain. Very often, even universal plans are not recognized by the local facilities. You may therefore have to make a payment upfront for any service and make a claim from your company (if applicable). A better option is to enroll for private health insurance with a local service provider.
While the overall quality of healthcare across the kingdom is excellent, the options for specialist treatment or attention may be limited, even in private hospitals. In some cases, the local doctors may ask you to consult a medical expert in another country.
In spite of being home to a small population, the island has a wide network of public and private medical facilities. Below are the names of some of the top hospitals in Bahrain.
American Mission Hospital – Saar
Building No 1114 / 116, Road 3345, Area 533 , Saar, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1779 0025
Al Hilal Hospital
Rd No 1129, Muharraq 23622, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1734 4199
Al Kindi Specialised Hospital
Building 960, Hwy 35, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1724 0444
American Mission Hospital – Amwaj
Building No 105, Road 59, Block 257, Amwaj, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1724 8100
American Mission Hospital – Manama
PO Box No. 1, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1717 7711
Bahrain Defence Force Hospital
Tel: +973 1776 6798
Bahrain International Hospital
Budaiya Hwy, Jidhafs, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1759 8222
Bahrain Specialist Hospital
Rd No 2447, Manama 10588, Bahrain
+973 1781 2080
German Orthopedic Hospital
Building 99, Road 29, Block 329, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1723 9988
KIMS Bahrain Medical Centre
Rd No 3709, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1782 2123
Royal Bahrain Hospital
29, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1724 6800
Alsalmaniya, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1728 4090
Shifa Al Jazeera Hospital
Rd No 640, Manama, Bahrain
+973 1728 8000
Villa No. 170, Road 66, Block 362, Bliad Al Qadeem, P.O Box 75225, Manama, Bahrain
Tel: +973 1760 0221
Not many outsiders are familiar with one important aspect of the Bahraini healthcare system. It is mandatory for all expats to undergo two separate medical examinations for their paperwork to be processed.
The first of the two is the more detailed one and has to be conducted in your home country. Your doctor has to issue a certificate of good health, confirming that you do not carry any infectious diseases. This document is an integral part of your acceptance into the system.
When you arrive in the kingdom, you will be required to visit a local doctor for a secondary examination. This will not be as detailed as the first one.
Since both the screening procedures are compulsory, make sure that you plan for them. Speak with the representative handling your documentation and get a list of all the tests you need to undergo.
Anyone can reach out for emergency medical attention by dialing 998 or 999 from a landline or mobile number. Most operators speak English so language should not be a barrier. While the services are very well equipped, their turnaround times are not the best.
It is very easy to find a drug store on the island, as there are so many of them, with several being operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Nationwide pharmacy chains like Alrahma Pharmacy, Bahrain Pharmacy and Wael Pharmacy are popular with expats. However, pharmaceutical products tend to be more expensive in this country. Moreover, they are not covered by insurance, unless the patient has been hospitalized.
The local laws around the sale of prescription medication are quite strict. Some of the drugs that are sold over the counter in Western countries require a prescription in Bahrain. It is therefore best to get something in writing from your doctor back home, so that you can purchase these drugs without too much trouble. You will also need a letter that has been signed and stamped by your medical practitioner back home if you plan to bring any prescription medicines into the country. Sleeping pills and anti-depressants are banned in the country because of their addictive properties.
The extreme temperatures in the region often result in problems like heatstroke, sunburn and dehydration. People who work outdoors are therefore advised to take precautionary measures, especially during the summer months. Respiratory ailments like asthma tend to get aggravated here because of the sand and dust from the constant construction.
Expats moving to Bahrain are also prone to a higher number of mental or emotional health problems as a result of the culture shock they experience. Many of them go through afflictions such as stress, depression and loneliness, which are not very common with the locals. Some expats suffer from alcoholism too.
In 2015, there was an outbreak of cholera in the region; it is therefore essential to be careful with drinking water and other beverages.
There are no special vaccines for people visiting Bahrain. However, do make sure that you have been immunized against common conditions like measles, mumps, typhoid, diphtheria and rubella. It is also a good idea to ensure that your tetanus jabs are up to date.