Interview: Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa

What is the status of reform efforts to the health care system in Bahrain?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULLAH AL KHALIFA: The country is launching our holistic and integrated National Health Plan 2016-25, which aims to pave the way for reforms in the national health sector in line with the objectives specified in Economic Vision 2030. Recent developments in the sector include the expansion of government health care services, transitioning to a paperless system in most government health care facilities, and improving training and capacity-building activities with regional and international medical bodies. One of the key milestones of this plan is the National Social Health Insurance System, which aims to provide the best quality of care to citizens and residents. This plan is the result of relentless efforts from different public and private entities throughout the past year, and is the first of its kind on the national level.

What are some specifics of the National Health Plan for the upcoming 10 years?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: The National Health Plan for the next decade sets the strategy of health care services and delivery moving forward. The plan adopts modern methods in providing care based on enhancing the values of personal health and emphasising the patient as the centre of the health system. The plan revolves around seven key pillars, including improving health-care safety and quality; enhancing the method of care delivery; ensuring a sustainable health care funding system; investing in the training and capacity building of health care professionals; and building an integrated national health information system.

How do the reforms impact the insurance system?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: A comprehensive National Social Health Insurance System – Sehati, or “my health” – is a major project that the council is working on in cooperation with the World Bank as a consultant. The project involves a number of key initiatives, including autonomy for primary and secondary government health institutes; establishing an integrated health information system by creating a National Health Data Dictionary and a National Electronic Medical Record file; setting up a fund; and determining the governance structure. Specialised teams for these initiatives have been formed, and they meet periodically to set the framework for the phased changes to be made with the system. The government will continue to fund the basic package for all Bahraini citizens, which will include additional services to what is currently offered to citizens at government institutes. These payments will be made in the form of premiums that will pool into a fund called Shifa. Private insurance companies will be an integral part of this step, as they will be taking over the expatriate insurance schemes. They will also be a choice for Bahrainis who wish to benefit from optional packages, should they opt to buy them from the private sector. The council has conducted extensive studies and field visits to cater this programme to arrive at the best results for the health industry in Bahrain.

Which areas of Bahrain’s health sector could benefit most from foreign direct investment?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: The government is looking to facilitate opportunities for investors who want to establish high-level health care institutions in Bahrain, including health service providers and educational institutions. The kingdom is focusing on bringing specialised health cadres and services to Bahrain, which won’t just serve the health care needs of the local population, but also aspire to go beyond that and meet other regional needs. This will be done through achieving the values of transparency, equality and efficiency in the provision of services, while easing logistical processes in order for investors to establish a foothold in Bahrain and achieve the greater goal of providing the best care for our citizens and residents.