By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: An expat patient is struggling to pay hospital bills as the global pandemic continues to ravage Kuwait and many other nations around the world. Hannah, an Indian national living and working in Kuwait, brought her mother-in-law to Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital on July 9, 2020. Her mother-in-law, aged 58, was admitted at the public hospital as she was diagnosed with pancreatic illness. When she was discharged three days later, her hospital bill came to KD 125.500.

“Obviously we weren’t able to pay the hospital bill because we do not have money due to this pandemic. We are struggling even to bring food to the table and pay the rent,” Hannah explained. Since she had no money, she left after signing a promissory note saying she’ll return to pay the bill.

“They finally allowed us to leave, but only after I promised that I will pay the bill in two weeks’ time. But the problem is I went home without medicine, because they said they can only dispense the medicine once the bill is paid,” she said. “Until now, I have no medicine for her, because I have to get the money first, then go back to the hospital to pay. Only then can I get the medicine,” she said.

Hannah said her father has been residing in Kuwait since 1975 and that all of them pay medical insurance required before renewing their residencies. Hannah’s mother-in-law underwent a series of tests including ECG, ultrasound and urine tests. Expats are required to pay for each test as well as for their stay in the hospital and for seeing the doctor.

Expats in Kuwait have to pay a KD 10 fee to access medical treatment at government hospitals in Kuwait. The said fees were only KD 2 before 2017, when the new healthcare regulation was imposed. According to the health ministry, the aim of the fee increase is to cut congestion at public hospitals and allow government-run clinics to take in more patients. Along with this new regulation came an increase in medical test fees, charges for hospital beds when admitted, and several others.

“I want to ask the Kuwaiti government - if they want to charge us this huge amount of money, why are they taking health insurance from us when we renew our parents’ visas. I hope they reconsider the payment, especially for people who have served Kuwait for many years,” Hannah told Kuwait Times.

Just for seeing a doctor, a public hospital charges a patient KD 10, and if there’s no serious problem, they can go home. But if there are alarming health issues, the patient is placed under observation and a series of tests are conducted. From those tests, the doctor will determine if admission is needed. If admitted, staying in a general ward costs KD 10 per day.

Additional charges will be registered including for tests conducted, and payment will be itemized depending on the number of procedures taken - for example for the urine and blood tests, a patient will pay KD 12, for an ultrasound, KD 10, etc. On the day of discharge, the patient will get a breakdown of the bill.