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Monday, August 2, 2021

Influx of Seha patients stretch capacity of Qatar’s private clinics

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Doha Clinic
Doha Clinic

The number of Qataris seeking medical treatment in private clinics appears to have grown substantially since the launch of the country’s nationwide health insurance scheme, with at least one prominent hospital reporting that up to half of its patients are now nationals.

Since Seha (“health”) started in August 2013, the program has expanded to cover the cost of medical treatment of all Qataris. The insurance scheme is now accepted by nearly 200 privately-run hospitals, clinics, health centers, opticians and other service providers across the country.

Previously, nationals could only get free treatment at a limited number of government-run hospitals and local health centers.

However, the roll-out of the plan has not been without hitches. Some patients have reported wait times of several hours to see a physician at some popular private health clinics and hospitals.

Speaking to Doha News, a senior doctor at Doha Clinic, a well-known private hospital in Qatar, said that since the launch of Seha, the facility has seen a shift in the demographics of its patients. Insurance manager Dr. Islam Zakaria said:

“Before Seha, most of our patients were cash patients. Now many of these have been replaced by Seha patients, who make up 40 percent and sometimes up to 50 percent of our total number.

“These are new, Qatari patients who didn’t come to us before but have transferred from Hamad (Hospital).”

This rise is significant, as Qataris make up only around 12 percent of the total 2.33 million-strong population.

Zakaria added that the hospital is operating at capacity, with the services provided by some departments – namely emergency, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology – in particularly high demand.

Delayed rollout

Last month, an official from the National Health Insurance Company, which runs Seha, announced that a further expansion of the program to cover expats would be delayed.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to the original timeline, the scheme had been due to cover white-collar and then blue-collar expats by the middle of this year. However, this has now been pushed back until at least the end of 2016 to give officials more time to address complaints of overcrowding in some private hospitals and clinics.

When it eventually comes into effect, all non-Qatari residents will be required by law to have healthcare insurance provided by their employers through Seha.

As this is not yet compulsory, many of the lower-income workers who are not insured use the government hospitals and clinics for treatment, which has put these facilities under pressure.

However, the scheme has benefited some other private healthcare providers, at least one of which has reported significant profits since Seha launched.

Clinic expansion

Al-Ahli Hospital
Al-Ahli Hospital

Medicare Group QSC, which owns Al-Ahli hospital, announced this week that its net operational profits had increased by 103 percent in one year, from QR89.5 million in 2013 to QR181.5 million in 2014, the Peninsula reports.

Speaking at the company’s general assembly in Doha, Chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Thani Al Thani admitted that the hospital’s inclusion in Seha and subsequent increase in patients had stretched its resources.

However, the facility responded by expanding capacity – increasing the number of sections, beds, doctors, nurses, surgery and obstetrics rooms, as well as installing more medical equipment.

Meanwhile, Al-Ahli officials confirmed plans to open a polyclinic as a branch of the hospital in Al Wakrah by fall this year.

This comes amid a push to provide more services and amenities in the town, to encourage residents to move from increasingly overcrowded Doha.

Earlier this month, Hamad Medical Corp’s director of women’s services David Barlow said that patients are being encouraged to consider medical treatment at centers outside Doha, in a bid to more evenly spread demand for care and reduce the impact on the hospitals in the capital.

There are also plans underway to establish markets in towns outside Doha and to build more schools and nurseries.

Where do you go for medical treatment? Thoughts?

12 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I’ll file this under the ‘that was obviously going to happen” category.

If you make something free and you get a choice then lots of people will use it.

I don’t see it as a bad thing as the country has a responsiblity to look after it’s citizens but they could have planned better for the inevitable.

Susan
Susan
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Agreed. They should also think about the success of their plans to shunt people to the less-overtaxed clinics and hospitals in Wakrah and Dukhan. While nobody likes to wait to see the doctor for 3 hours, they also probably don’t want to have to deal with an hour+ commute to get to the clinic in the first place. They need to build more medical infrastructure here in Doha (preferably off of main arteries to ease road congestion) since the vast majority of people live here.

thedrizzle96
thedrizzle96
6 years ago
Reply to  Susan

I wonder what the growth of those clinics with the green (hexagons?) signs on them has been over the last 20 years or so. Essentially divding the health care system seperates expats from nationals, and the national population hasn’t quite had the same growth as the expat. So it would be interesting to see how the local health care system has developed over the years, those neighborhood health clnics are a great idea, when you exclude the massive expat growth, but I doubt they’ve even kept pace with the national population.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Problem is that many of the locals are now abusing the system and clogging the facilities for extremely minor or non existent ailments. This coming from expat friends who work in the industry and see it first hand. I guess it’s “Hey it’s free let’s do it.” I know Qatar can be boring at times but this?

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

I used to work at a company here with a very good insurance scheme, one indian employee submitted a claim nearly every week for either him or a family member. I said to him once, most people go to Katara or souq waqif the weekends or even walk round the malls, you seem to take your family ot Al ahli for a day out. His response was, it’s free so I should take advantage to get the maximum benefit. (Another employee also tried to claim the Insurance premium back because he hadn’t used the insurance at all……)

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

LOL, now thats true sense of having no idea to do with your life.

Expat77
Expat77
6 years ago

It’s obvious that private clinics are minting money from SEHA business. especially with same numbers of medical staff. It’s going to be a nightmare when expat Insurance is added.

dubious
dubious
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat77

Perhaps it is going the way of the US where hospitals essentially defraud the insurance companies with stuff like $2,500 for a bandage?

jki
jki
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat77
Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

This was 100% expected, Qataris didn’t have any choice in healthcare, they got it.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

The only thing I worry about is the hospitals over charge now especially for medicines. When compared to other countries some of the mark ups are in excess of 1000%! At the end of the day the government will end up paying and not getting value for money.

Truth101
Truth101
6 years ago

Ahli hospital announce their profits increased 103%, in ONE YEAR! When queried about this inordinately high level of increase in the mere space of one year being fully legitimate, a hospital spokesperson replied thus, “oh no no,we’re not ripping off the government through the national health insurance scheme or anything like that,ever riyal of that 181.5 million was honestly earned.”

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