As Kuwait moves forward on health care reforms aimed at expanding service provision for its growing population, the private sector is set to play a larger role in the industry. While free health care is guaranteed to all Kuwaiti citizens, population growth has put considerable strain on state-owned facilities. The government has recently announced several new projects slated to be constructed across the country, with public-private partnerships (PPPs) expected to bolster service quality and provision for Kuwait’s 3.97m residents.
Kuwait is divided into five health regions: Kuwait City, Al Jahra, Jabriya, Reqqa and Farwaniyah. Each offers a general hospital providing full outpatient service and 24-hour emergency services. The state also offers a range of specialist hospitals aimed at preventing and treating prevalent lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and specialty care in neurosurgery, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, burns, oncology, radiology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology, physiotherapy and psychiatry.
Kuwait’s health care sector offers 94 primary care institutions and 15 government hospitals, with a total of 6714 beds and medical teams that accompany pilgrims during the hajj. In April 2014 the World Health Organisation announced that Kuwait “achieved 100% progress” in more than eight vital health services, bringing it on par with advanced Western nations. However, rapid population growth has strained existing resources. Kuwait’s population grew by 3.1% annually between 2000 and 2012, according to the IMF, with the Public Authority for Civil Information calculating the current population at approximately 3.97m, with expatriates comprising 2.74m, or about 69%, of the total population, as of the end of 2013.
The government provides free health care to nationals, and foreign workers pay approximately $175 annually for health insurance, in addition to extra charges for services such as X-rays. This ease of access has put considerable pressure on the public system, and privatisation of services has been a priority for some time.
Meeting long-term demand requires substantial investment in infrastructure, and the government has shown greater commitment to rolling out new health care facilities and services in partnership with the private sector.
Private developers are set to benefit from an estimated $3.2bn in hospital projects expected to be rolled out in the next few years. In April 2014, for example, Drake & Scull Kuwait, a subsidiary of Drake & Scull International, won a $16.34m mechanical, engineering and plumbing contract to upgrade a hospital in Shuwaikh, with work due to finish in March 2015.
Notable ongoing projects include the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah Hospital, which has been under construction since December 2009, with the project overseen by Kuwait’s Dar Gulf Consult and USbased Langdon Wilson International. The $1.16bn hospital, slated to open at some point in 2014, will provide 1168 beds, and include diagnostics, clinical, casualty and dental services, as well as VIP suites.
Meanwhile, Jahra Hospital will see the construction of a new 1093-bed health care facility at a cost of about $1bn, comprising 25 operating rooms, 50 intensive care beds and several other facilities, with completion anticipated by the end of 2015.
In March 2014 the hospital inaugurated new laboratories worth an estimated KD350,000 ($1.23m) as part of its ongoing expansion, although construction of major project elements has not yet commenced, following a government decision to extend the deadline for pre-qualified bidders in July 2013.
The state’s Partnerships Technical Bureau is hoping to establish a PPP for a 500-bed hospital at Al Andalus. Serving as a centre for excellence, the PPP for Al Andalus Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Centre will include the design, construction, finance, maintenance and operations of the facility, including provision of management services, laboratory and medical equipment services, building maintenance, lifecycle repair and replacement services over a 25-year concession.
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