The Kuwait Medical Association has publicly condemned as discriminatory a decision to ban foreigners from accessing medical attention in the morning unless in an emergency.
The Health Ministry has reportedly approved a proposal to segregate Kuwaitis’ and expatriates’ access to public hospitals and clinics, giving nationals priority during the morning and forcing foreigners to wait until the afternoon.
Staff also would be segregated according to their nationality, with Kuwaitis working in the morning and expat doctors in the afternoon.
The move is seen as favourable to Kuwaitis while reducing the level of care given to expats, who make up about two-thirds of the Gulf state’s population but would have fewer hours they could seek medical attention.
The law is expected to be passed by Cabinet but no start date has been announced.
The Kuwait Medical Association said the move violated international standards.
“We categorically reject such a discriminatory decision that violates the World Health Organization’s regulations, and demand that it not be enforced,” KMA Secretary General Marzouq Al-Azmi said in a statement reported by Kuwait Times.
Al-Azmi said medicine was “a humanitarian profession” and must prioritise patient rights.
“Giving citizens exclusive privileges in other services would be a good thing, but that must never happen with regards to medical services,” he said.
He described the decision as “rash” and “subjective” and questioned the motive behind it.
Al-Azmi said it was even more “illogical” because there were more expatriates than Kuwaiti citizens but they would have fewer hours to access medical care.
“It will only lead to increasing the burden on medical staff which already works overtime in afternoon shifts,” he said.
Kuwait also this week announced it would implement measures, including a freeze on new work permits from April 1, to cut the number of expatriates in the country by 1 million by 2023.
The number of foreigners will be culled by about 100,000 annually, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rasheedi said.