‘Vision 2035’ And Kuwait Healthcare Reform
Reform of the Kuwait healthcare sector is integral to the Kuwait government’s development plan, ‘Vision 2035’, to turn Kuwait into a regional financial, cultural and institutional leader and to reduce dependency on oil.
Currently more than half of Kuwait’s national income and around 80% of government revenues come from oil exports. The Kuwait government is looking at alternative ways to diversify its economy, offer employment opportunities, reduce expenditure and increase income generation by encouraging the private sector to develop public-private partnerships in 164 programmes, projects, and initiatives and by boosting foreign investment.
The Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) has highlighted the Kuwait healthcare sector as one of its major destinations for investment opportunities.
Current Kuwait Healthcare System
Kuwait’s Ministry of Health (MoH) is the government body that runs the country’s public healthcare system. The MOH was established 80 years ago and is now one of the largest government ministries in Kuwait. The MoH runs 70 primary health care centers offering services such as medical care from GPs, dentistry, maternity care, nursing care, preventive care, pharmaceuticals, and family medicine. There are 6 major hospitals which provide secondary health care (Jahra hospital, the Amiri hospital, the Mubarak Al-Kabeer, the Sabah, the Farwaniya, and the Adan) and also specialized centers.
Current Kuwait Government Healthcare Expenditure
Although Kuwait’s per capita income stands well above that of many other emerging and developed countries in the world, spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP remains relatively low by international standards – just 3% of its GDP compared to more than 9% of GDP for advanced economies.
- Private Healthcare Expenditure. Private sector expenditure on healthcare treatment abroad has long been a concern for the Kuwait government ($1.5bn was spent to fund 11,000 medical trips abroad in 2014). A reversal in this trend is forecast going forward as the Kuwait government seeks to attract foreign and local investments into this sector especially through its PPP initiatives.
Factors Forcing Change In The Kuwait Healthcare System
Increased Population/ Life Expectancy
- Kuwait’s current healthcare system is not sufficient for the needs of the current population. Low infant mortality and high expected life expectancy have collectively been instrumental in leading to high population growth. Kuwait’s population expanded at a CAGR of 2.8% from 2010 to 2015, supported largely by a large influx of expats. Kuwait’s population is projected to rise at the same rate from 2015 to 2020, forecast to reach 4.7m in 2020 from 4m in 2014.
Increase In Chronic Diseases
- Chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, diabetes, cancer and respiratory conditions are rising dramatically in Kuwait and in the GCC region overall driven primarily by less physical activity and dietary habits such as increased fast food consumption linked to high-income generation. These were estimated to account for 73% of the total deaths in Kuwait in 2014, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
- Kuwait has one of the highest percentages of obesity in the world; nearly 40% of the population is obese. The high prevalence of obesity can be ascribed to lifestyle changes, foremost being the high consumption of fast food. This combined with very high summer temperatures and a lack of outdoor activities makes physical activity a difficult task for a great part of the year.
Kuwait Government Healthcare Reforms Under Vision 2035
The Kuwait government has recently begun implementing a number of reforms aimed at expanding the country’s healthcare infrastructure and placing importance on controlling lifestyle-related diseases.
- New Hospitals. The MoH aims to establish 8 hospitals and hospital extensions at a cost of $1bn. There has also been 4.2 billion USD allocated by the Ministry of Public Works to build nine more hospitals, creating new jobs. The new facilities will enable the government to provide more specialized treatment within the country, reduce the national health care bill by limiting the number of people going abroad for medical treatment and screening services
- Medical tourism. Kuwait is also planning to promote medical tourism in its own country by developing world-class healthcare facilities. Currently, in Kuwait the major infrastructure is managed by public players and the overall healthcare infrastructure does not meet the standards set by the developed world. Billion dollar healthcare investments by private players to strengthen their infrastructure base to develop a medical tourism healthcare sector for Kuwait will not only generate external revenue by attracting patients from across the globe but will also reduce the foreign visits of Kuwait locals for specialized treatment.
Kuwait has awarded projects worth $11bn in the construction of new infrastructure for healthcare as it seeks to prioritize the transformation of its healthcare sector.
The country has 40 upcoming healthcare projects, accounting for 6% of the total upcoming projects in the GCC region. However, in terms of project value, Kuwait accounts for nearly 17% of the total value of upcoming projects.
Kuwait will require a significant number of healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals) to cater to its growing healthcare demand, including an additional 4,900 nurses by 2020.
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