By Claire Valdini
Kuwaiti nationals most likely to seek medical treatment abroad, followed by Bahrainis, study shows
A growing number of GCC nationals are shunning medical treatment in their home country and are opting to travel abroad, a new survey has said.
Kuwaiti nationals are the most likely to seek medical treatment abroad with 65 percent saying they would prefer to treat a serious medical condition outside of their home country, researcher Gallup said.
Just 16 percent of Kuwaitis said they visited a physician on a regular basis while Saudis are among the most likely to visit a doctor regularly (38 percent) and the least likely to want to travel abroad for treatment (35 percent).
Just over one third of UAE nationals (39 percent) said they would travel abroad compared to 47 percent in Bahrain and 43 percent in Qatar and Oman.
Despite the high number of patients opting to travel abroad, the report found that residents in the Gulf are the most satisfied in MENA with the quality of healthcare available to them in their area.
Regional governments are spending billions of dollars on improving healthcare facilities amid a rising rate of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The number of people suffering from diabetes in the MENA region is expected to double from 366m in 2011 to 552m by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
Four of the Gulf states are ranked among the world’s top ten fattest nations, with Kuwait the second most overweight country in the world behind the US, according to a research report published by BMC Public Health last month.
Saudi Arabia, the largest Gulf state, has earmarked US$73bn for building hospitals and healthcare centres in the kingdom over a four-year period while Abu Dhabi has partnered with the US-based Cleveland Clinic to improve healthcare conditions within the emirate.
Outbound medical care is becoming an increasing burden to Gulf governments with the UAE alone spending US$2bn annually to send its residents abroad for treatment, noted the report.
“State governments in the GCC must consider strategies for meeting increasing care needs and improving the quality of healthcare. Possible solutions include further development of private care options for nationals and expats,” it said.
“Privatisation of care in these countries comes with other challenges, though, such as staffing, quality oversight, and the economics of reimbursement and insurance in a public-private healthcare system.”
Overview of the Kuwaiti healthcare system by a former minister of healthcare in Kuwait, Dr. Hilal Al-Sayer http://www.marcopolis.net/overview-of-kuwaiti-health-care-sector-1307.htm