Not enough PHCs in Qatar to meet growing population
Residents are forced to opt for private clinics as PHCs in the country do not have the capacity to accept any new patient registrations.
According to Qatar Statistical Authority, between December 31, 2011 and December 31, 2012, more than 140,000 expatriates arrived in Qatar, leading to a 7.5% rise in the population compared to the previous year.
For a country whose population is now nearing two million, the 21 primary health care centres (PHCs) don’t suffice. The PHCs, divided as Central, Western, and Northern region centres are witnessing a heavy rush of patients, and hence hesitant to accept any new registrations.
Habiba Radcliffe who moved to Qatar with her husband last spring says they faced this problem at the PHC in Bin Mahmoud, where they were residing at that time. The centre was no longer accepting new patients and the couple were asked to register at another centre which turned them down as well.
“A few days later we tried again. The same result. When we asked which PHC we should join, we were advised to try one by the airport, a reasonable distance from where we lived. As a result, we lost heart and have since been going to Al-Ahli Hospital whenever we needed anything,” says Habiba.[boxify cols_use =”1″ cols =”2″ position =”right” order =”none” box_spacing =”10″ padding =”10″ background_color =”#3c3c3c” border_color =”#3c3c3c” border_style =”solid” ]
The Kuwait way?
Kuwait’s health ministry came up with a new regulation last month to reduceovercrowding at the country’s medical facilities. As per the plan, only Kuwaitis are permitted to visit hospitals and clinics in the morning while the evenings are reserved for expatriates. Read full report here.
This is seen as an extreme measure, alienating a large section of the population involved in nation building.[/boxify]
Last year too, Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) announced that Omar bin Khattab centre and West Bay health centres would cater exclusively to nationals to reduce overcrowding. Expatriates were asked to deregister and apply at other centres. Read full report here.
Another complaint that a PHC visitor, John D., had was that PHCs don’t accept patient from other centres even during emergencies. “I once rushed to a health centre because I was in severe pain. But I was told to go to the centre I was registered with. They could have at least shown me to the doctor to get a prescription.”
Speaking to JustHere, PHCC officials said they were fully aware of this situation and were coming up with measures to better manage the growing number of patients. PHCC will soon release data informing new patients about which centres are full, and which will be accepting new registrations. The staff too will be trained to direct patients accurately.
“PHCC recognises the need to develop and expand the services and systems currently in place to deliver a new standard of care according to the primary health care strategy and meet the needs of Qatar’s growing population. We are undertaking an intensive programme of service developments and changes, based on meeting the particular needs and requirements of the local community, which will be taking place across health centres in phases. Improvements are being developed in consultation with the community and staff and will be tested and the feedback of staff and people using the services will be used to measure success and effectiveness,” said officials.
These are some of the steps that PHCC is taking in the next couple of months:
- Introduction of electronic systems for the management of appointments and medical records, which will reduce delays at reception and ensure comprehensive medical details are maintained for all individuals.
- Adoption of new systems to reduce the number of queuing system ticket numbers.
- Renovation of existing health centres and the building of new ones in response to the growing population and specific needs and requirements of the community.
- People will be registered at a specific health centre, but will be able in an emergency to attend any nearest health centre for treatment.
- Extended health centre opening hours.
Health insurance: Hopes and fear
Over the last few years Qatar has been in the process of structuring a social health insurance plan for all its residents. The new plan shifts the liability of health care insurance from the Government to the employers.
Earlier this month, The Peninsula had reported on the concerns of the private sector on the implementation of the proposed insurance. Read full report here.
Some companies, resisting the change, have even hinted that this move could affect salaries and sponsorship policies of their employees.
At one of the first plenary sessions, four years ago, healthcare experts stressed that this was the only way forward as it was not feasible or practical for the State to continue bearing the cost of healthcare of all its residents.
PHCs in Qatar offer treatments and medications at a highly-subsidised rates, sometimes for as little as 5% of what private clinics charge.
With the proposed health insurance law, patients need not be worried about how much their medical expense comes to even if they visit private clinics.