Manama: Kuwaiti doctors have lashed out at a lawmaker who called for imposing new restrictions on expatriates by forcing them to purchase medicines from private pharmacies instead of receiving them from hospitals as part of the medical check-ups.
MP Safa Al Hashem who has been conducting an aggressive campaign to reduce the number of foreigners in Kuwait by making them pay taxes and higher fees said that her aim was to help address the demographic balance in the northern Arabian Gulf country.
About one third of the total population in Kuwait are foreigners, mainly Asians in the booming construction and service sectors.
Foreigners currently pay a symbolic sum of two Kuwaiti dinars for a medical check-up during which they are also given the needed medicines and Al Hashem is calling for changing the system.
However, doctors insisted there can be no discrimination between Kuwaiti nationals and foreigners regarding health and education facilities.
“Blaming foreigners for the demographic imbalance in the country is not fair and those keen on addressing it should look for the real reasons and for the people who have been abusing the system to make money,” the doctors said, quoted by Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.
“Emotional outbursts are not valid solutions and we sense populist attempts and racist tendencies in our country where human rights are respected and welfare is well supported.”
Kuwait University staff association chairman Dr Sulaiman Al Khaddari said that Kuwait was fully committed to international agreements and covenants regarding the human rights of all people living in the country and no discrimination between citizens and expatriates for health and education services is tolerated.
“It simply does not make sense to introduce any form of discrimination in providing medicine for patients on the basis of their nationality,” he said. “The state and the private sector are committed to providing health covers for the people working in Kuwait. Unfortunately, some people are pushing for making the expatriates responsible for the deficiencies and imbalance in the demographic situation in the country without trying to find out the real reasons and causes of the phenomenon.”
Dr Fatima Khaja, surgery specialist at Mubarak Hospital, said she was astonished by Al Hashem’s insistence on putting extra financial burden on foreigners for availing health facilities.
“We have the impression that her vision and her plan to resolve the economic crisis are confined to the foreigners,” she said. “Her insistence on piling up pressure on foreigners in a human rights area such as health is shocking and unacceptable. Kuwait has always assisted others at all times. People must not be deprived of their right to health facilities. Those who want to address the financial issues should direct their anger towards those who have been accused of corruption and theft in public funds, instead of people who are helpless and need our assistance.”
However, Al Hashem, the only woman in the 50-member parliament elected in November last year, said that she was not bothered by the harsh criticism against her proposals. “I do not care about any criticism since I had taken oath to protect the freedom, interests and funds of the people,” she said. “My proposals are logical. Only the ignorant believe that the state is a charity foundation and there is no social justice for the citizens.”