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Kuwaiti MP wants medical insurance for expats

Al Hashem welcomes medical insurance as move to ease pressure on hospitals

Manama: A Kuwaiti lawmaker who has been spearheading a campaign to impose all sorts of taxes on foreigners has hailed a recommendation by the parliamentary health committee to impose a medical insurance on all expatriates.

“Such a move will ease the pressure on hospitals where the visiting families of foreigners are causing long waiting lists and the lack of oxygen cylinders in the emergency rooms,” MP Safa Al Hashem said. “There are foreign patients who come for post-natal treatment, cancer treatment, obesity treatment and others," the MP was quoted as saying by Kuwaiti media on Tuesday.

The lawmaker, the only woman among the 50 members elected to the parliament in November, said that the plan to recruit 30 consultants from other countries was a dangerous flaw within the state.

“It is about time that Kuwaiti citizens are trained and qualified as consultants and advisors so that the state does not have to pay all the expenses for foreign experts. The state has paid the expenses of a consultant who stayed in an hotel for one full year.”

Last month, Minister of Health Jamal Al Harbi said the new world-class Jaber Hospital would start operation in months to serve Kuwaitis only.

In March last year, a health official said the Emiri Hospital said it would take only Kuwaiti nationals as Outpatients Department (OPD) patients in the mornings.

Capital health zone director Dr Afrah Al Sarraf said that expatriates could avail of the OPD services only in the afternoons and Kuwaitis would be treated in the mornings exclusively. However, Kuwaitis can opt for OPD services in the afternoons as well.

The idea of allocating morning medical services in public hospitals to Kuwaitis was first floated in 2013 when a hospital in Jahra, west to the capital Kuwait City, said it would accept only Kuwaitis in the morning and that foreigners were banned from entering the premises until the afternoon.

However, expatriates could have access to doctors for treatment in emergency cases.

The decision was made after lawmakers put pressure on the health ministry to introduce a new system that favoured Kuwaitis.

Kuwaiti patients have repeatedly complained that their waiting times to see a doctor had been extended as a result of the high number of foreigners receiving treatment at public hospitals.

The initiative at Jahra was introduced on a six-month trial basis to assess its impact.

About two thirds of the total population of 4.2 million people living in Kuwait are foreigners, mainly unskilled labourers, domestic helpers and drivers from Asian countries.

Indians nationals top the list of foreigners while the Egyptians make up the largest Arab community in Kuwait.

Lawmakers have called for a special session in parliament to address the demographic imbalance.

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