Egypt doesn’t always appear in lists of the most popular destinations among expats. This is largely because of the prevalent economic and political instability there, especially since the dawn of the Arab Spring in 2011, which resulted in many migrants fleeing the country. Although Egypt has regained some stability in recent years, there continue to exist concerns about poverty, unemployment, rising cost of living and strained relations between the various religious communities of the country. In spite of all this, there are still plenty of expats who have made Egypt their home and continue to live there successfully.For most expats, the cost of living in Egypt tends to be quite low in comparison with their home countries, and this, coupled with favorable exchange rates, means they are able to stretch their money a long way. There are also a number of job opportunities available in the country for native English speakers. In addition, despite the socio-economic conditions in current times, Egypt will always retain its reputation for being the cradle of civilization and home to some of the world’s most renowned historical monuments. This makes living in Egypt a rich, rewarding experience for many people. Local people in Egypt are hospitable, and are known to extend a familial generosity to visitors. Lastly, Egypt is only a short flight away from some fantastic destinations such as Sinai and Alexandria, historic places filled with natural wonders.
Healthcare In Egypt
Upon attaining its independence in 1953 from England, the new government in Egypt began to create and implement policies intended to make improvements to the healthcare system. The aim was to establish a modern healthcare system that all citizens could easily access and afford. New tax schemes were implemented in order to increase public spending on healthcare, based on funds received from employers and other means. Immunization and vaccination programs were made compulsory to increase life expectancy and bring down the mortality rate, especially among infants. Since there were drastic disparities between the cities and villages across the country in terms of mortality rates, the government focused on establishing a uniform healthcare system that was evenly distributed.
Through modernization measures taken over the years, Egypt’s healthcare system has greatly improved. Urban as well as rural areas now have greater access to healthcare than they used to. Immunization programs have reached a majority of the population, and life expectancy has increased, while infant mortality has declined.
However, even though Egypt’s healthcare system has progressed, there are still areas where it continues to function poorly. Egypt still receives international financial aid which, along with its own programs, has provided the necessary assistance to improve the healthcare system. In spite of this, the country’s quality of healthcare is not on par with many other developed and developing countries in the world. The funding of the system has also become skewed, with 51 percent of healthcare costs coming from households, and only 35 percent coming from the government. This imbalance has added to the strain on the population, a large chunk of which already survives on less than US$2 per day.
The healthcare system in Egypt consists of some facilities funded by the public sector and some funded by the private sector. Due to the large variations in the quality of healthcare available in Egypt and the fact that the government does not take the required measures to improve existing healthcare services, most expats avoid public hospitals and opt for private healthcare. Further, many expats living in Egypt prefer to have major operations performed in other countries in order to receive good quality healthcare.
However, Egypt does have a number of quality hospitals located throughout the country, especially in the capital city of Cairo, where there also specialty hospitals. This is why many expats who need medical care choose to go to medical facilities in Cairo. Considering the challenges involved in receiving proper healthcare in Egypt, it is important for expats to ensure that they have sufficient health coverage.
A large portion of Egypt’s public healthcare services is governed by the ministry of health and population, which runs hospitals in the urban and rural areas consisting of in-patient and out-patient facilities. It also oversees university-run hospitals. Military healthcare is also part of the country’s public healthcare sector, and is governed by the ministries of interior and defense. Other major public healthcare service providers include the Health Insurance Organization and the Curative Care Organization, which govern the mandatory social insurance funds collected from the incomes of salaried individuals and from employers.
Egypt’s public healthcare sector has established clinics and hospitals across the country, but the services offered are often below average because of a scarcity of medical professionals. The doctor-to-patient ratio in Egypt is 20 doctors per 10,000 patients, which is very low compared to many Western countries. Public hospitals also suffer from a lack of modern equipment. Patients accessing the government medical facilities in both rural and urban areas often have to endure long waiting times. The state of medical care available at public hospitals and clinics means some low-income patients are now seeking healthcare at private facilities, even though such care comes at great personal expense.
The public healthcare sector is meant to cater to the majority of the population, and often, government agencies aim to provide quantity, but this comes at the cost of quality. One of the main causes of the challenges faced by the public healthcare sector is the lack of funding, which has resulted in a widespread lack of personnel. Trained medical professionals would rather opt for better paying opportunities in the private sector, leading to understaffing in the public sector. The staff that do remain tend to be insufficiently trained. Due to limited funding, the maintenance of the facilities suffers, leading to poor hygiene. Many hospital rooms are not properly ventilated, raising the risk of spreading infections. The equipment at many of these hospitals is outdated, and some are even unable to provide basic medical supplies, including medicines. Overcrowding and over-worked staff only add to the poor plight of the state-run healthcare facilities.
If it becomes necessary to seek medical care at a public hospital, the best option you for as an expat is to go to a facility that is attached to a medical institution, such as the Ain Shams University Hospital in Cairo or the Alexandria-based Alexandria University Hospital, where the services are likely to be of a higher quality.
While expats may qualify for free public healthcare in Egypt, very few of them use it; in fact, less than 10 percent of Egyptian people opt for public healthcare too.
Private healthcare services in Egypt include private insurance companies, non-government organizations and unions. Privately funded medical facilities are mostly located in the cities. These facilities can be expensive and generally serve middle and high-income groups. The doctors who work at these hospitals are usually trained in Western countries and are well-versed in English. However, the private health insurance system in the country is not very comprehensive, especially when compared to many other countries. Therefore, expats thinking of relocating to Egypt should ensure that they have an adequate health insurance policy beforehand. Some research on the different health insurance providers and policies available is recommended. Most private hospitals in Egypt accept international medical coverage.
Expats living in Cairo will find that healthcare is easier to come by than in other parts of the country, as the city is Egypt’s primary hub of medical treatment. It also offers the highest standard of healthcare in the country. Almost all doctors working in Cairo speak fluent English and are well-trained, having been abroad for their training. Cairo has plenty of medical institutions, ranging from smaller clinics to large hospitals, specializing in various fields. A recommendation from your family doctor is the best way to go if you are not sure which hospital to visit for treatment. Your insurance coverage may also determine which institution is appropriate for you. Among the largest private hospitals in the country, and one that is popular with many expats, is the As-Salam International Hospital in the Maadi district of Cairo.
Since the social security system in Egypt does not extend to expats, you will need to obtain full coverage from your insurance company or negotiate an expat package with your employer which includes health insurance. Medical assistance is available without any health insurance, but can involve significant costs depending on the illness or disease in question. Besides, some hospitals insist on a security deposit, while others expect upfront cash payments for treatment.
Many mosques located in Egypt offer medical treatment, and some offer services that are better than those provided by the government-funded clinics and hospitals. Mosques do not receive state funding, and access to them may vary from one region to another. Mosque clinics are common mostly in the major cities, due to the larger populations living there.
Challenges For Egypt’s Healthcare
Problems regarding basic sanitation and hygiene still plague Egypt’s public healthcare system. Nearly 30 percent of the population cannot access clean water for consumption, and the poor quality of water is responsible for over 17,000 children dying each year. The country has public sanitation plants, but they are strained on account of the burgeoning population. The nation’s sewage system still does not connect all homes, and many of these homes do not even have plumbing. There is a constant struggle on part of the authorities to make available adequate healthcare, but most of this is only available in the form of expensive services in private hospitals in the big cities. Rural healthcare facilities have a long way to go before they can meet acceptable health standards, and are mostly only used for urgent or temporary medical treatment.
Pharmacies In Egypt
Major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria have a number of pharmacies that are open around the clock. Expats should make a note of those closest to their residence in case of emergencies. Prescriptions are usually not necessary in Egypt, and it is possible to access medications quite easily and immediately. Pharmacists can also prepare a special order if certain medicines are not immediately available. The brand names of medications are likely to be different from those you are familiar with in your home countries.
Calling the direct emergency number of your district is the fastest way to get emergency medical treatment. The country has a general emergency number to call an ambulance, which is 123. However, in major cities, due to traffic conditions, emergency services cannot entirely be relied upon. This is especially the case in Cairo, where it is common to see ambulances with their sirens on, trapped in traffic congestion. Rural areas are not likely to have ambulances available.
Expats may find it a better option to take a cab to a hospital. While it is true that cabs also get stuck in traffic, it is often quicker to go this way than to wait for an ambulance.
Since Egypt faces a severe problem of poor sanitation, expats should take adequate precautions when eating and drinking outside the home. It is advisable to utilize bottled water for cooking and drinking, and to avoid consuming street food and drinks. Hepatitis C, spread through contact with infected blood, is another common health concern in Egypt. Rabies and tuberculosis also pose a risk in the country, and expats should make sure they are vaccinated for both ailments. The major cities in Egypt face a problem of air pollution, and respiratory conditions could be aggravated by such conditions.
Expats should be aware that they need to get vaccinated for certain illnesses and diseases that pose a risk in Egypt. These include meningococcal disease, hepatitis A/B, typhoid, yellow fever, polio, rabies, rabies and influenza. You will also need to consult your doctor in advance to make sure you are up to date on routine immunizations. Expats with pre-existing conditions should have a comprehensive health check-up before leaving for Egypt.
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