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Healthcare and Medical Treatment

Egypt - Healthcare and Medical Treatment


Before you travel to Egypt, ensure that appropriate health insurance arrangements are in place and you are fully vaccinated. It’s easy to forget how serious illness and accidents can have a dramatic impact, both health wise and financially.

What Vaccinations Do I Need?

Before you head to Egypt, regardless whether it is for a weekend trip or to live permanently, book an appointment with your family doctor. Ideally, you should do this eight weeks in advance of your visit.

Measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and tuberculosis are all very serious diseases which are highly contagious. The vaccination programmes in Egypt have been attempting to eradicate these diseases, and progress is going well. However, frequent outbreaks still affect hundreds of children and young people in the country. Therefore, you need to ensure you have received the full course of vaccinations for these diseases by checking your health records with your doctor.

Most people will also need to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and typhoid, as they are present in Egypt and can make you very ill.

Vaccinations against Hepatitis B and rabies are only advised for travellers going to particular areas of risk. However, if you are going to stay in Egypt for a long time, or live permanently, it is best to be on the safe side and get these vaccinations wherever your destination.

While Egypt has no risk of yellow fever, if you originate from or have travelled through a country at risk from this disease, then you will need to present a certificate showing you have received the relevant vaccine. This is required under international health regulations issued in 2005.

Malaria is no longer seen as a risk in Egypt. The last cases, which were in 2014, were thought to be brought in by people arriving from Sudan. Before that, malaria was not seen in the country before 1998.

Health Issues

Smoking tobacco causes cancer, heart problems and strokes. Since smoking became more popular in Egypt, the incidence of these serious and life-threatening illnesses have reached record levels. Meanwhile, the use of water pipes or shishas in cafes and restaurants has been linked to the spread of tuberculosis. Therefore, the government banned the smoking of cigarettes and water pipes in public in 2015.

Even if you have received a BCG vaccination against tuberculosis, do not risk smoking a shisha. If you are one of the unlucky ones to contract the disease, you can spend several painful weeks in hospital receiving treatment. Plus this is one of many diseases becoming resistant to the available antibiotics. A new class of antibiotics has not been found anywhere in the world since 1987.

If you plan to live in Egypt for the long term, remember to eat healthily; you will be constantly surrounded by fried and syrupy food and drink to tempt you into consuming lots of calories each day, which comes with a health risk.

Remember to protect yourself against the sun, even in cloudy weather. Make sure you have constant access to clean, bottled drinking water. You should not use tap water to drink or brush your teeth.

Emergency Numbers

If something serious happens in Egypt and you need to call for help from the emergency services, call one of these numbers:

Police: 122

Ambulance: 123

Fire: 180

It’s a good idea to keep a note of the phone number for your nearest embassy, consulate or high commission. That way, you can quickly call for official help from your home country if you find yourself in difficulty.

Public Health Services

In October 2017, the Egyptian government announced a major change in the country’s health insurance programme. Between 2018 and 2032, a new national health insurance scheme will be rolled out across the entire nation.

The outgoing scheme, first implemented in the 1960s, had very low subscription costs for individuals to pay. However, the scheme covered just over half the population, mainly through two publicly administered insurance funds, and services provided have been poorly resourced. The overwhelming majority of individuals covered under the public health scheme have instead chosen to use private medical services.

Under the new scheme, subscription will be mandatory, and the amount paid will relate to income. It is a stated intention to offer free cover to those who cannot afford to pay, which is estimated to be a quarter of the adult population.

The government plans to set prices in an attempt to avoid soaring costs for patients in private hospitals. As the population continues to grow at a strong pace and people live longer, demand for healthcare is predicted to increase well beyond current capacity; private sector healthcare services are seen by investors as one way to help the public sector facilities keep pace with patient need. Medical tourism services and cosmetic surgical treatments have been expanding significantly over the past decade, both of which add pressure to a system which needs a range of well-trained, qualified professionals across the board.

One thing is certain at the current time; expats should access private medical services when requiring treatment, and the safest way to cover the financial risk is to obtain private medical insurance.

Private Medical Insurance For Expats

Although the costs of medical services in Egypt are cheaper than those in many Western countries, a combination of staff, facilities and drugs charges can quickly mount up to a sizeable bill.

The best staffed and equipped hospitals and medical facilities will be found in Cairo, although there is also good provision in tourist areas. Beyond this, facilities and the services they provide are more basic. If you live elsewhere in the country you must therefore assume you will need to travel to Cairo if you ever need specialist medical services.

If your employer provides medical insurance for you, make sure you are aware of any important exemptions or limitations. If you need to pay excess charges, for example, or certain treatments are not covered, you either need to keep a ring-fenced fund available for emergency use, or take out additional cover privately.

If you are not covered by an employer’s medical insurance, then you must arrange your own policy before you arrive in Egypt. Be aware that every policy is different, so do not just accept the cheapest price. Consider any exemptions and limitations carefully.

Be careful to declare any previous medical conditions at the time you ask for the initial quote. You may be asked to complete further health questionnaires or be examined by a specified doctor. If you omit any condition or medical event from your declaration and later need treatment, the policy provider will refuse to pay, even for emergency or life-saving treatment. You or your relatives will then suddenly be under pressure to provide a large sum of money for treatment to continue, even if you need it to stay alive.

Given the security situation in Egypt, there may be some areas of the country which an insurer requires you to avoid, and some activities they will not cover. If you ignore these conditions and something happens so you require treatment, the insurer will not pay for it.

When you have arranged your policy, keep the details with you at all times. This should include the name of your policy provider, their emergency phone numbers and your reference number. Should you have an accident or suddenly become ill, knowing your policy details are stored away neatly in a file at home will be little use. If you also leave the details with your friends and family, they can contact the insurer if you are too ill to do so.

Psychiatric Services

Unfortunately, psychiatric services in Egypt are limited, especially outside Cairo. It is thought that around 17 percent of Egyptian people suffer some form of mental illness, with depression, anxiety and drug use as major issues, but this is determined by a 2009 survey as no recent official medical statistics are available.

The impact of mental illness on the individual, family and community both in terms of wellbeing and economic health is fairly well understood in Egypt. As a result, there is government interest in helping those with mental health needs. A 2009 law regulated the process of involuntary admission to mental health facilities, introduced a bill of rights for patients in mental health facilities and brought in the patient’s right to consent. This is an important piece of legislation to protect the rights of those who suffer mental illness.

In 2015, a strategic five-year plan to develop and improve mental health services across Egypt was introduced.

Unfortunately, a number of problems are holding back successful implementation. Low levels of targeted government spend, few mental health inpatient centres and a lack of community-based mental health services, combined with a shortage of trained mental health professionals means patients find it hard to access appropriate help.

Since there remains a significant social stigma to mental health in Egypt, the amount of informal help and support available from friends, family and the local community is limited. However, campaigns and the storylines of popular TV series are helping to highlight some of the many different forms in which mental illness and disability can arise, and social attitudes are slowly beginning to change.

If you are an expat living in Egypt and suffering from any form of mental illness, seek help as quickly as you can and access private treatment wherever possible. This will be faster and more effective than using local services.


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Expat Health Insurance Partners


Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.

Cigna

Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.