Interview: Dr Ahmed Al Saleh
What is required in terms of structure and regulation to improve health care in Kuwait?
DR AHMED AL SALEH: Today, Kuwait’s health care system is recognised as one of the most developed in the Middle East. Its achievement in terms of health indicators rival average European standards of health, and the government has committed to reforming the health care system several times over the last 20 years. However, these attempts have not achieved their target, mainly due to political difficulties. There has also been a good renovation initiative to modernise most of the older health care facilities across the country.
Nonetheless, despite the overall good health indicators achieved by Kuwait, it is still necessary to improve the sector in terms of efficiency and service quality. The regulatory structure of Kuwait’s health administration is outdated, and strategic regulation and policy reviews into organisational structure, advanced health informatics and modern skills are necessary.
Health care in Kuwait needs urgent reform, which should include a new organisational structure for the health care system. There must be a move towards decentralisation along with the encouragement of real partnerships and trust between the government and the private sector to boost overall health care standards. All in all, the government’s obligation should be to ensure that services are provided, but not necessarily to provide those services itself.
What role does health care play in New Kuwait?
AL SALEH: Health care plays a very crucial and strategic role in New Kuwait. The vision is based on seven pillars including effective government management, diversified and sustainable economy, developed infrastructure, sustainable living environment, high-quality health care, innovative human capital and international recognition. Health care, therefore, is a key area of focus for the vision. There are around 22 projects that are health care related with a value of over $1bn. A high-quality health care sector requires an integrated model of health services in Kuwait to be effectively implemented across the sector in Kuwait to ensure easy access to appropriate health care, at the right time and place, and by an appropriate team.
Therefore, the Medium-Term Development Plan 2015-20 emphasises the need to achieve high-quality health care through the application of international standards in all public and private health services and facilities. In addition, more attention should be placed on preventive measures to address chronic non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases and genetic diseases, as the existing health care system does not play a sufficient role in prevention.
In addition, waiting times in hospitals can be reduced by increasing the clinical and bed capacity of public hospitals and through the expansion of the participation of the private sector in providing health services.
How will the increasing role of the private sector in Kuwaiti health care impact the development and advancement of health insurance?
AL SALEH: Private health care in Kuwait has been thriving over the last five years, filling market gaps and capturing opportunities mainly in secondary and tertiary health services. Although the government provides comprehensive health services, there is still a belief that services are deteriorating in terms of achieving patient satisfaction and are overcrowded.
It seems that the growth of the private sector will continue due to increasing demand. The affect of the private sector will be to bring increased funds, technologies, managerial skills and operational efficiency. It will ensure better value for money, by achieving improved services at lower costs than can be obtained by traditional public procurement routes. In addition, the private sector will accelerate the rate of delivery of health care projects with the provision of expert management capacity and a focus on patient satisfaction.
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