Following a period of relative calmness about overseas treatment, the issue is back to light through the controversy made about its cost, which has raised so many exclamations, suspicions and accusations. Though the cost was KD 800 million over the past two years, the political cost remains as huge and dangerous. Overseas treatment is a public service the government is committed to provide to citizens, namely patients in critical conditions whose treatment is not available in Kuwait.
The budget set for this service is KD 120 million, which is way below the amounts actually spent, thus multiplying the total sum to several folds simply because the service has turned into a political bargaining process through which lawmakers and others’ loyalty can be bought. This, of course, is done at the expense of real patients in need to be sent abroad for treatment at international hospitals.
A number of prestigious US and European hospitals stopped receiving patients sent by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health (MOH) and its health offices for treatment abroad because there are many overdue and unpaid bills. This has led to a state of confusion and seeking medical services in less costing and less competent medical facilities. Thus, overseas treatment has deteriorated at the expense of true patients, and its reputation is becoming as bad as that of local health facilities. Despite the highly qualified medical staff, latest medical equipment and medications in both domestic and overseas facilities, corruption and mismanagement has been undermining the service and turning it into another example of squandering public funds.
The Kuwaiti government is currently indebted to US health insurance companies with amounts equal to the budget allocated for overseas treatment. Those companies have their own advocates and will surely get their demands whether we like it or not. If German, British and French companies do the same, the cost will be absolutely catastrophic. MOH also made another mistake when it opted to dispatching patients to less costing centers in Eastern Asia and the Middle East.
Overseas treatment might have exceeded KD 4 billion since the liberation; an amount which could have been used to build the world’s largest medical facilities and manning them with the best international medical equipment and staffs. With such a sum, Kuwait would have been turned into an international health tourism destination. The real problem lies in the chronic diseased minds and souls that seem to have lost hope in overseas treatment.-Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Jarida
By Dr Hassan Jouhar