Public spend composed 84% of health expenditure in 2016, with the remainder made up by the private sector. As spending priorities shift to preparations for hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s authorities are intent on courting private sector involvement in social infrastructure – specifically the health care sector – to help fill gaps in construction and provision.
The projected need for private health care expenditure will offer opportunities for companies specialising in the construction of health care facilities, and those offering services or supplying products.
In a market historically dominated by public services, the role of the private sector has been growing in recent years, in part due to the importance the government places on health care insurance for both Qataris and expatriates.
A private sector engagement strategy has been developed to identify opportunities for greater involvement, and has set out where work is needed to support the private sector in making investment decisions or help companies operate successfully.
Furthermore, Qatar’s upcoming public-private partnership law (see Trade & Investment chapter) is expected to encourage greater private sector participation, with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reportedly looking at arrangements from an infrastructure and provision perspective.
The infrastructure master plan provides a good indication of the sector’s needs. According to the MoPH, Qatar has faced a sustained period of rapid population growth that has presented a challenge in ensuring adequate infrastructure.
The health care sector is rapidly mobilising additional clinical capacity, and the ministry is concentrating on non-clinical infrastructure – car parks, substations and office buildings.
According to BMI Research, private spending is projected to grow three percentage points faster than public spending, at an 8.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2016 and 2026, to rise from 15% to 20% of total health expenditure over the same period.
This growth in part reflects the relatively low level of penetration of private health care providers, as well as a projected rise in demand for hospital care, which is slated to expand at a 2.9% CAGR through to 2022, according to figures from the MoPH.
Many global and regional investors are already active in Qatar’s health sector, with more international and local players also preparing to take advantage of the favourable climate. For example, Quality Group International launched the family-focused Pearl Medical Centre, a new multi-specialty clinic in Muaither, in February 2017.
Pharmaceuticals are another area of the health care sector poised for growth, based on projections for expanded access to care in the country. The pharmaceutical market is dominated by multinationals working with local partners that make up nearly 100% of the 260-270 pharmaceutical companies in Qatar. All medication is imported by dedicated air service Pharma Express, operated by Qatar Airways Cargo, with only one local manufacturer – Qatar Pharma – focused on intravenous solutions.
As the prevalence of chronic diseases rises and health care costs increase for an ageing population, the current offering of nearly free government services will increasingly become unsustainable, resulting in the need for greater private sector engagement to share the financial burden.
From the development of clinics, polyclinics and hospitals, to the provision of services, medical instruments, machinery and pharmaceuticals, strong competition is likely to have a beneficial impact on not only the quality, but also the choice and efficiency of health care in the country. The private sector, with appropriate regulation and quality assurance, is poised for a period of rapid and successful growth.