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Probing Kuwait's Segregated Health Services

On August 22, 2013

In March 2013, Kuwait approved a law to segregate public health services, purportedly to reduce long wait times. Citizens would be treated in the mornings, and expatriates in the afternoons, except in cases of emergency. Particularly undermining the government's efficiency claims is the corresponding segregation of hospital staff; Kuwaiti doctors work in the mornings and non-Kuwaiti doctors treat other expats in the afternoons. quoted Human Path Organisation secretary Taher Al-Baghly on the proposal:

The health service will not be equal, because consultants work in the morning and this will lead to variations in service levels,

Psychological advisor Iman Al-Bedah added that the "...increase patient traffic in the evening and this will worsen the level of service."

The discriminatory law will be tested until September to determine its impact on waiting times.

This August, sources revealed that a health insurance company has been established to construct three migrant-only hospitals. Last year, private companies were not interested in presenting bids to build the three hospitals as the project’s capital was set at KD 318 million ($118 m) to KD 230 million. The government required a bed capacity of 1600 for three hospitals. The requirement now is only 230 beds in each - this means only 2 to 6 beds will be available for every 10,000 migrants.

The newly-established Kuwait Health Assurance Company will be features pre-set prices for services and is expected to cover only 60% of the country's migrants. The project is part of the public-private partnerships (PPPs) plan approved in 2010 to privatize parts of the economy and decrease the country's dependence on oil. However, privatization of public health will lead to the denial of essential services to low-income migrants, who comprise a significant portion of the population. The Ministry believes the quality of its resources are inconsistent with the prices paid by migrant workers, even despite the prospective segregated and unequal services.

Currently, migrants in Kuwait pay 175$ annually for basic healthcare services, and health fees for migrants specifically are only expected to increase. The Ministry of Health also announced it is considering raising expat's medical fees merely to "to boost revenues and reduce overcrowding at facilities."