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Healthcare in Qatar

Guiding Principle

Qatar’s healthcare system has reached a high standard, but is still in aprocess of development. The Government is willing toprovide its citizen as well as foreign expatriates with the highest healthcare standard with low and bearable charges. It invests high amounts on its healthcare system. The Qatari Labour Law and the Health Insurance Law are the main legal sources governing the healthcare inQatar. However, the change in the economical situations due to several reasons, forces the State to find new solutions to bear the high challenges of a comprehensive healthcare system. Therefore many changes take place and will take place in future. The healthcare willprobably be shifted even more to the private sector. The individual contribution will increase with the consequence that insurances will be more available and used, be it voluntarily or forced by the regulations of the State.

A.  Rules and Regulations related to Healthcare

I.    The Labour Law and related Rules & Regulations

a)   Sources

In Qatar regulations related to the healthcare for employees are governed by the Qatari Labour Law, Law No. 14 of 2004 (QA-LL) as well as Ministerial Orders and Cabinet Decisions such as:

  • Ministerial Order No.18 of 2005 on statistical forms for occupational accidents and diseases andprocedures for their notification,
  • Ministerial Decision No.20 of 2005 on requirements and conditions to be observed in workplaces and areas for the protection of workers, employees and visitors from occupational hazards,
  • Ministerial Decision No. 13 of 2005 on organizing inspection work andprocedures
  • Ministerial Order No. 16 of 2005 on regulations for the medical careprovided to workers at undertakings.

b)   Articles of the Labour Law related to Healthcare

1.   Sick Leave

The sick leave of employees is stipulated in Art.82 QA-LL whichprovides that employees are entitled to sick leave with full pay, and that the employeeproves his sickness by a certificate from a doctor, approved by the employer. The employee is entitled to

  • The first two weeks on full pay;
  • Next four weeks on half pay;
  • Further extensions thereafter without pay.

Basis for the calculation of the sick leave is according to Art.72 QA-LL the basic wage, excluding any allowances.

The employee may be terminated at the end of the twelfth week of the sick leave if it isproved by a report issued by the competent physician that the worker is unable to resume his work at that time.

2.   Maternity

Provisions pertaining to maternity are regulated in Art.96-98 QA-LL. Female employees are entitled to 50 days of maternity leave with full payprovided they have completed one year of service. The leave may be taken before and /or after delivery. If the remaining period of the leave after delivery is less than thirty days, the female employee may be granted a complimentary leave from her annual leave.

The female employee may be absent from work for a total period of 60 consecutive or non-consecutive days without pay, if the female employee has exhausted her maternity leave and if such an absence is due to an illness preventing her from returning to work and a licensed physicianprovides her with a certificate.

After delivery, the nursing female employee is entitled for a period of one year to a break of one hour for nursing.

The maternity leave may not be deducted from other leave periods and the female employee may not be terminated during her maternity leave.

3.   Work Injuries

The Qatari Labour Lawprovides specialprovisions for work injuries and the compensation thereof in Article 108 et seq. QA-LLC. An employee who sustains a work injury is entitled to receive medical treatment at the cost of the employer and his full wage during the treatment or a period of six months and after that to half wage.

4.   Safety, Vocational Health and Social Care

Further, the Qatari Labour Lawprovides many regulations for the safety, Vocational Health and Social Care including but not limited to precautionary measures forprotecting the workers during the work from injury or diseases, care for hygiene and ventilation, keeping a first aid box etc.

II.  Healthcare Insurance Law

Currently there is no Health Insurance Law inQatar. Nationals are automaticallyprovided with extensive state help, including medical care, sickness and maternity cover, child care, pensions, unemployment benefit and in some instances housing and disability benefits.

Foreign workers have access to medical facilities to some extend. The Hamad  Medical Corporation (HMC) facilities, one of the Gulf’s most respected medical institutions,providing modern diagnostic and disease treatment and the countries leading nonprofit healthcareprovider, medical and dental treatment is free for Qatari’s and heavily state-subsidized for expatriates.

In order to receive medical treatment from clinics and hospitals and to use the facilities, residents and visitors are required to apply for a health card, which allows them to pay small charges for various tests and consultations as well as a nominal fee for inpatient care. The costs are still low and do not come close to meeting the actual cost, but signal a change in the all-embracing free welfare system. On payment of a nominal fee of approx. Qatari-Riyal 100 per person Health Cards are issued by the nearest governmental clinic.

Qatar supports and develops the insurance sector through modernizing insurance policy in particular and the insurance legislative infrastructure for the financial sector in general. It plans topromulgate laws to make health insurance compulsory for expatriates and encourages the introduction of more insurance instruments such as health insurance and insurance for corporate and individual needs in general. Moreover, it is beginning to persuade companies toprovide medical insurance for their employees in order to ease expatriate pressure on state healthcareprograms. In 2008 a Health Insurance Law was already drafted andproposed, which would make it compulsory for an employer to buy health cover for a worker even if he is the lone employee.

Private medical insurance is recommended for most foreigners. The potential for the health insurance is, considering a population of approximately 743.000, people quite big. Ten insurance companies operate inQatarand Doha Bank has a health insurance scheme covering up to 100.000 Qatari Riyal in a year for in-patient (QR50.000 for out-patient) per year and patient, with premiums starting from 35 Qatari Riyals per month and person. It is accessible for individuals, families and groups.

B.  Healthcare in the Day to Day Life

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently rankedQatarat the top of the per capita health expenditure list among the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC). These expenditures had a positive effect on some vital health statistics for the country. For example, the crude death rate in 2006 was 2.09 per 1,000 of the population. The total fertility rate and the average life expectance at birth for the same period were 2.67 and 75.8 years respectively. In the budget of 2008-2009, the State has allocated 9.6% of the budget to health and social services. Within its health policy the State has also been keen toprovide competent physicians as well as care for children through allocating a maternity and child healthcare section in each medical centre.

The healthcare services are currently structured as follows:

  • Primary healthcare centers, Primary healthcare level through which basic curative and preventive healthcare is offered at 21 health centers,
  • Specialized clinics in some health centres, specialist care, such as diabetic care isprovided to those referred from primary healthcare centers,
  • Specialized and teaching hospitals: Care isprovided to those referred from specialized clinics to Hamad Medical Corporation.

Until 1997 the emergency supply was very critical, there were only five ambulances inQatar, and emergency medical services were available only in the capital city and its suburbs. Meanwhile, ambulance services are available nationwide and average response time to emergency calls is just 7 minutes after 35 new vehicles were put in service by 2002; and the number of paramedics was increased. Ambulances were also linked withHamadHospitalvia satellites to improve the servicesprovided.

The Ministry of Public Health and the Hamad Medical Corporation together with non-governmental organizations such as the Qatar Diabetes Society, the Qatar National Cancer Society, and the Qatari Red Crescent hold conferences and seminars and launch campaigns specially designed to educate and encourage the public to adopt healthy habits. Healthprotection andpromotion are instruments, used topromote and develop healthy lifestyles through variousprograms.

All in all the day to day healthcare situation in the State of Qatar is on a high level and still developing to improve.

C.  Healthcare in the Private Sector

Healthcare inQatarhas always been operated almost entirely by the Government. The Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), a state-owned healthcareprovider, deals with nearly 100% of inpatient care and outpatient visits. Small populations and high gross domestic products allowed the Gulf state to fund the welfare of its people without imposing many financial obligations upon them.

The fast growing population in the recent years inQatarwith the consequence of financial and capacity pressures, however, led to a rethinking. Therefore the Government plans to shift the healthcare system and move some parts of the healthcare services to the private sector. The Government has decided to encourage the expansion of private clinics and hospitals. While the public sector provides the bulk of the country’s health services in the near term, a number of private sector organizations also operate in the country. The Qatari Government has encouraged the private sector to play a greater role inproviding healthcare to the public sector. The country’s first private hospital, the American Hospital opened in late 1999, and private practices and clinics for both medical and dental, now offer a full range of medical services, from rheumatology and dermatology to reflexology and home nursing care. Laws governing private practice are strict, and licensing by the Ministry of Public Health – which oversees all health services in the country – is mandatory for all establishments and each of their medical and nursing staff.

There are about 160 private clinics inQatar, which mainly offer basic primary care services, some offer specializations. These hospitals provide high quality medical care and patient services. Also theyprovide the best diagnostic and therapeutic services with an atmosphere of caring and concern of compassion.

D.  Healthcare in the Public Sector

I.    The Present Status

The Ministry of Health is the statutory health authority in the country and is responsible for the oversight of health system development. It steers, leads, supervises and monitors the performance of the overall health system, i.e. the public health functions as well as personal serviceprovision (public and private). The key roles of Government in the health sector include mainly following points: setting policies and strategies, enacting legislation and regulation, enforcing rules, assessing needs and training of human resources, fair financing of health services, collecting information and assessing needs and training of human resources, fair financing of health services, collecting information and assessing trend of disease and ensuring equity and social justice for access to health. The Licensing Committee in the Ministry of Health plays a major supervisory role over the private health sector. The organizing of healthcare is divided among the Ministry of Health and the Hamad Medical Corporation. The Primary Health Services Department of Hamad Medical Corporation supervises 23 primary healthcare centres, which are conveniently distributed across the country.

The Medical Commission Department plays a major role in controlling the infections diseases through examining expatriates coming for employment and to visit Qatar as well as Qatari nationals for employment and accordingly reaching a total control over the import of deadly communicable diseases.

The Preventive Health Department is responsible for fighting contagious diseases; carrying out vaccination, immunization and food and quarantine watch control;providing health education in the field of mother and child care and insuring environmental health and safety.

In April 2009 the Supreme Council of Health was inaugurated. It has remit over both public and private medicalproviders, with powers to set prices of services as well as pharmaceuticalproducts. The body is also tasked with the implementation of the new health insurance scheme.

II.  The Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030)

A planning committee, comprising representatives of the various departments of the Ministry of Health, as well as of hospitals, was established as a nucleus for a national planning committee for health development. In 2006 (amended 2009) the General Secretariat for Development (GSDP) has been established by an Emiri Decision. The GSDP’s function is to develop a National Development Strategy for the State of Qatar in support of the Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims the development andprogress of Qatar. The Social Development Department is mainly responsible for the support of the “Qatarnational vision 30”. The State is engaged and motivated to develop a comprehensive world – class health system, whose services are accessible to the whole population. QNV 2030 outlines, the ambitious aims of the country toprogress the field of national human development inter alia in the domains of health and living standards. The aims include:

  • Effective and affordable services in accordance with the principle of partnership in bearing the costs of healthcare,
  • Coverage and preventive and curative healthcare, both physical and mental, taking into account the differing needs of men, women and children,
  • High quality research directed at improving effectiveness and quality of healthcare.

The Social Development Department supports the QNV 2030 and the National Development Strategyproviding a medium-term framework of goals and strategies to help Qatarprogress towards the realization of the nation’s longer-term ambitions as set out in the QNV 2030.

E.   Outlook

Qatar’s healthcare system has reached a high standard, but is still in a process of development. The private sector becomes more and more important and the individual contribution will increase in future. Most likely, health insurance will become compulsory in Qatar soon. Qatar will implement an insurance scheme which is expected to be rolled out over a period of four years from the end of 2009.

January, 2010 Roueida Hamdan
Meyer-Reumann & Partners – Dubai Office
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