Government dominates the healthcare system but has stopped reform
The Qatari health sector is primarily dependent on public financing. Public funds cover more than 80% of health care costs. Due to the high budget deficits from 2015 to 2017, investments were somewhat restrained. However, the national budget should have returned to green by 2018. A positive result is also expected in 2019. The Ministry of Finance forecasts a surplus of US$ 1.2 billion.
In 2019, the national budget estimates US$ 6.2 billion for health care, which corresponds to 11% of the total budget. The expenditures include, among other things, the expansion and modernization of facilities of the public hospital operator Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), medical laboratories as well as the completion of four outpatient health centers and the start of construction of five new health centers.
Health care facilities generally import their medical devices. Imports have grown steadily since 2016, reaching over US$ 250 million in 2018.
Qatar: Imports of selected medical devices and equipment (in US$ 1,000)
|9018||Surgical, dental, etc. instruments, equipment and devices||132,594||153,271||167,825|
|9019||Equipment etc. for mechanotherapy; massage equipment||9,307||12,570||17,900|
|9020||Breathing devices, etc.||4,557||4,099||5,234|
|9021||Equipment etc. for orthopedic purposes||16,080||25,590||31,270|
Source: Qatar Foreign Trade System
A total of 2.8 million people live in Qatar. The public hospitals and health centers offer their services to the local population mostly free of charge. Their share of the population is 12%. After purchasing a Health Card for an annual fee of US$ 28, foreigners, primarily Asian guest workers, can use the public facilities at subsidized prices. The rest must be covered by themselves (out of pocket) or by private health insurance.
Continued expansion of the hospital sector
The healthcare system has grown considerably. Between 2010 and 2018, the government increased the number of its hospitals from five to 16. Bed capacities grew from around 1,600 to almost 3,200. Plans envisage a further expansion of public bed capacities to about 4,500 by 2030. But the development of the private hospital sector, which accounts for only 12% of bed capacity, is uncertain.
Qatar: Development of bed capacities
|..Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC)||1,638||2,120||2,712|
|…Hamad General Hospital||600||600||603|
|…Women’s Hospital||340||330||— 2)|
|…National Center for Cancer Care & …Research||58||65||70|
|…Al Khor Hospital||122||110||115|
|…Al Wakra Hospital||—||260||325|
|…Cuban Hospital Dukhan||—||75||80|
|…Communicable Disease Center||—||65||65|
|…Women’s Wellness and Research …Centre||—||—||240|
|…Qatar Rehabilitation Institute||—||—||193|
|…Industrial Area Hospitals in Doha, Al Khor und Mesaieed||—||—||300|
|..Sidra Medical and Research Center (Education City/Qatar Foundation) 3)||—||—||400|
|..Aspetar (Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital)||—||56||56|
1) Partial estimates 2) in-patient and emergency care was discontinued in 2018 3) Qatar Foundation is a quasi-public institution, but Sidra Hospital describes itself as private and charges accordingly
Sources: Hamad Medical Corporation, Ministry of Public Health, private hospital operators
The most significant hospital operator HMC (http://www.hamad.qa) plans to expand and modernize its Hamad General Hospital, Heart Hospital, Al Khor Hospital, Al Wakra Hospital, and Cuban Hospital Dukhan. HMC also plans to build the 250-bed Tarsheed Hospital near Qatar University for US$ 400 million. Its design work has been completed.
The largest government project is the US$ 1.5 billion Hamad Bin Khalifa Medical City planned by HMC. However, the project is currently progressing slowly. A US$ 500 million hospital project planned as part of Medical City is on hold, reports MEED Projects (Middle East Economic Digest). A US$ 200 million Specialist Diagnostic Centre has also been stopped for the time being.
The National Centre for Cancer Care and Research is working on a US$ 590 million expansion project since 2015. Construction work began in autumn 2018. At the beginning of 2019, the Ministry of Defense awarded the contract for the construction of a US$ 120 million Military Health Complex. A further US$ 158 million military hospital called Barzan Hospital is planned. The Ministry of the Interior plans to build a US$ 100 million hospital for its staff.
Private sector affected by the stop of health reform
The prospects for the private sector had improved in 2013 with a Health Insurance Law (Law No 7 of 2013 concerning the Social Health Insurance Scheme) and the establishment of the insurance company National Health Insurance Company (Seha). Seha also assumed the treatment costs for the local population in private hospitals. However, Seha was dissolved at the end of 2015, which means that locals can now use private clinics only as self-pay patients or as privately insured patients.
Seha should have gradually taken over the financing of basic medical care for the local population, foreigners and all visitors. These basic health services included preventive and rehabilitation measures as well as ophthalmological and dental services. Following the dissolution of Seha, it was announced that an alternative model would be developed. So far, however, there have been no conclusive results.
In the hospital sector, the importance of the private sector will, therefore, remain limited. The number of beds in private hospitals peaked in 2010 at 426. In the period from 2011 to 2016, the maximum number of private beds was 300.
The capacities are distributed among four private facilities. The American Hospital, opened in 1999, was the first private hospital. It was followed by the Doha Clinic Hospital (57 beds), the Al Ahli Hospital (100 beds) and the Al-Emadi Hospital.
At the beginning of 2017, the Turkish Hospital opened with 100 beds. It operates as a joint venture between the local Taleb Group and the Turkish Ruzgar Group. In the Marina District of Doha, construction of the private US$ 50 million Lusail Hospital began in 2018 and is scheduled for completion in 2021. The 200-bed house is to be operated by the American Hospital Management Company. The Al Ahli Hospital, which opened in 2004, is said to be working on expansion plans.