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Qatar - Health Service
Qatar's healthcare spending is one of highest in the whole Middle East, with $4.7 billion invested in healthcare. This investment represents a $2.1 billion increase compared to 2010. The premier healthcare provider in the country is the Hamad Medical Corporation which was established by the government as a non-profit healthcare group. HMC has a network of hospitals, ambulance services, and a home healthcare service, all of which are accredited by the Joint Commission.
The government has established the National Health Insurance Company which manages and operates the national health insurance scheme, called Seha. Since 2013 it has covered Qatari females aged 12 and above for gynecology, obstetrics, maternity and related women’s health conditions, and since 2014, it has provided comprehensive insurance coverage to Qatari nationals for basic health care needs. Those basic needs include almost all medical, dental and optical treatments except cosmetic surgery, alternative medicine and over-the-counter drugs.
In 2010, spending on healthcare accounted for 2.2% of the country's GDP, which was the highest in the Middle East region. In 2006, there were 23.12 physicians and 61.81 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants. The life expectancy at birth was 82.08 years in 2014, or 83.27 years for males and 77.95 years for females, which was also the highest life expectancy in the Middle East. It is important to know that Qatar has a low infant mortality rate of 7 in 100,000.
In 2006, there were a total of 25 beds per 10,000 people, and 27.6 doctors and 73.8 nurses per 10,000 people. Just five years later, in 2011, the number of beds decreased to 12 per 10,000 people, while the number of doctors increased to 28 per 10,000 people. As this country has one of the lowest proportions of hospital beds in the region, the availability of physicians is the highest in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).
Qatari healthcare at a glance
As a small and wealthy country, Qatar is able to guarantee its citizens free and equal access to healthcare through central funding. On the other hand, alternate mechanisms of health care funding are being investigated. Private healthcare is growing because of the high demand for higher quality services. Healthcare costs can be still considered fairly cost-effective when compared to its regional neighbours with highly developed private health care systems.
Since the country opened its first hospital half a century ago, many changes and improvements have been introduced to the healthcare arena. The healthcare system is now available to all people in Qatar, whether they are nationals, expatriates or tourists. Qatar also has a public health service that provides free or highly subsidised healthcare.
The only exception is when it comes to highly specialised services. Although the healthcare system has improved over the years, it still has some problems. Although healthcare is free or highly subsidised, expatriates and tourists can expect to pay some of their medical costs. Because of this, it is highly advised that expats and tourists obtain international health insurance.
Preventative healthcare is mostly concentrated on the fight against contagious diseases. Qatar has a comprehensive list of vaccinations for newborns. It was one of the first countries in the region to add an anti influenza vaccine to this list. Apart from contagious diseases, the government set up a sector for non-communicable conditions such as tobacco addiction, accidents, and a unit dedicated only to nutrition.
In general, Qatar has a centrally funded public healthcare system. This means that all citizens have the right to free and equal access to health services, which are financed from public funds. Healthcare is financed through directly allocated central funding from the public budget. The government is currently actively pursuing an alternate system of healthcare financing through health insurance but this is not yet in place.
All expatriates can purchase health cards in this country. The cost is still quite low and it doesn't meet the actual cost of health care services in Qatar. Healthcare costs in the private sector are mostly direct payments with the exception of some banks, private companies and the oil sector which subsidise their employees’ medical coverage in the private sector. In this sector, doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Emergency ambulance services in Qatar are centralized through the 999 Emergency system. Calls can be made in both English and Arabic. Emergency cases are usually redirected to the public hospital system. Response times are very efficient across the country, especially in the capital city Doha. Helicopter emergency rescue services are also available across the country. Qatar Red Crescent operates its own private patient transportation services.
The NHA, following international standards, controls the manufacturing and marketing of all drugs. There are numerous pharmacies in Qatar, and some of them have late opening hours.
Expats, tourists and all visitors who are not used to very high summertime temperatures can be susceptible to sunstroke and sunburn as temperatures can often reach 50°C during the day in the summer months. Dehydration is something that everyone should be aware of. Respiratory problems arise due to the heavy amount of dust and sand in the air.
Expat health insurance
It is good to know that cheap insurance may not represent the best value for money in cases where expats need to make a claim. It is possible that expats may require specialist expatriate insurance cover abroad for some services.
All useful information about the healthcare and healthcare insurance can be found on the official website of the Qatari Ministry of Public Health.
Read more about this country
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