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Kuwait expats apprehensive ahead of health fee hike

Analysts criticise decision as being rash, poorly planned and unfair

Gulf News

Manama: With only days left before the October application of new health fees on foreigners in Kuwait, an expatriate woman has pleaded with a hospital in Kuwait to have an emergency caesarean done in order to avoid paying higher delivery costs.

However, Dr Mahdi Al Fadhli, director of Al Farwniya Hospital, said her request was turned down as it would endanger the foetus.

He added that financial concerns about the decision to increase medical fees starting next month cast a shadow on some patients who rushed to hospitals and health centres in the last days of September, Kuwaiti daily Al Seyassah reported on Thursday.

Dr Al Fadhli said he understood the motives for the fee increase, but added that it needed studies to avoid complications in its application.

“There is a need for alternative solutions, such as increasing medical insurances that should be covered by the employer from the current 50 Kuwaiti dinars to 150 dinars,” he said. “The annual average cost for a hospital bed is 170 dinars and includes everything. We do need solutions to cover the costs.”

Dr Al Fadhli said there were concerns about the fate of some patients after the implementation of the increase.

“Some cases require intensive care, such as preterm infants and chronic diseases that require patients to stay in hospital for long periods of time, especially that the cost for staying one day at the intensive care is 30 dinars,” he said. “The ones who will be really suffering are the patients with not enough resources who need to be hospitalised.”

In August, Kuwait said it would increase health care fees for foreigners for the first time in more than two decades.

However, expatriates, economists and some Kuwaiti analysts criticised the move as being rash, poorly planned and unfair.

The decision to hike the fees was taken after some parliamentarians launched aggressive media campaigns against providing health services to foreigners for free or low prices.

They argued that with the drop in oil prices, Kuwait could no longer afford to foot the bill and expatriates would have to pay more to enjoy living in Kuwait.

But for some other lawmakers, the application of the increase should be delayed at least until early next year.

“Even though we support the increase in the fees in order to meet the higher costs of medical equipment, there is an urgent need to take into consideration the human dimension and the average income of a large number of foreigners,” Khalid Al Otaibi, a Member of Parliament, said.

“There is also a need to reconsider some of the fees especially because most foreigners could no longer afford some services. In fact, the fees are much higher than those applied in neighbouring countries and even in Europe.”

More than two-thirds of the 4.4 million people living in Kuwait are foreigners, mainly unskilled labourers in the construction and service sectors and domestic helpers.

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