A Supreme Planning Council report on human development titled “Social Cohesion: National Pillar” revealed a scary truth about the challenges in the health sector in Kuwait by showing it’s suffering from significant deterioration. It is certainly sad that in spite of massive spending on healthcare that exceeds five billion dinars, a shortage of beds and tired facilities as well as many other obstacles are hindering the healthy development of the country. The report is certainly disturbing, but the most important question is how to get out of this crisis which threatens health services provided to both citizens and expats.
The report refers to the deterioration of the health situation due to the spread of wrong eating habits and diseases leading to death, which reflects low awareness and consumerist society patterns such as obesity and the prevalence of diabetes and smoking, all elements that lead to heart and respiratory diseases, which form a burden on the health system and a major challenge as well.
The report also pointed out that amongst the most serious threats to the health of the population in Kuwait are environmental hazards caused by air pollution. Air pollution in Kuwait is an important risk factor for heart patients and lung cancer, especially with our weather that carries dust nearly all year long. I doubt the current health system is capable to address these problems that need technical solutions and support as well as political consensus and incentives to change the behavior of individuals. This is a mutual responsibility by all. The ministry of information must be involved in this matter and not only the ministry of health.
The improvement of healthcare in Kuwait must be a goal in the human development plan. The health sector had witnessed an expansion in the construction of public hospitals in the early 1980s, but a large increase in population led to increasing pressure on public hospitals as a result of increasing numbers of patients. In light of the limited means available, the quality of health services have fallen.
The health sector is not completely dark here. Kuwait indicates a decline of infectious diseases due to the availability of clean water and access to immunizations on a large scale and the spread of primary health service centers which lead to a rise in the average life expectancy. The valid point here is that KD 17 billion is the expected spending of the Kuwaiti government in the 2015/2016 budget, and the health sector will enjoy 8.9 percent of that spending of the total capital expenditure of the state, which means that even the oil crisis has not affected the government’s support to the health sector.
There is an urgent need to have a social health insurance system for all. I read the news about the health ministry’s plan to provide all retired Kuwaitis with health insurance, and if this happens, it will be a great step. But other steps are needed such as accelerating the fight against smoking to reach the proportion of less than 5 percent of citizens smoking by 2040 through the implementation of the framework convention for the World Health Organization on tobacco control.
While most Western countries have witnessed a decline in the level of smokers because of awareness campaigns and the upgrade in awareness of the preservation of public health, the tobacco industry is still targeting Middle East markets because unlike developed countries, they seem to be less concerned and have fewer controls.
The seriousness of the matter is that Kuwait will be forced to face a massive rise in the cost of healthcare in the coming years with the increase in the number of Kuwaitis and expats amid chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart and blood diseases and lack of preventive programs. These are key factors for the improvement and development of the health sector.