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Govt to settle hospital bills amid treatment abroad row – 11 controllers to be questioned; Paris health office ‘still open’

KUWAIT/PARIS: The government has approved a special budget estimated at KD 320 million to pay bills of hospitals in countries where citizens are sent for treatment as part of the state’s overseas treatment program. This step came to honor Kuwait’s agreement with foreign hospitals as part of the program, and to protect the state’s reputation, according to informed sources. The government stepped in at a time when the foreign and health ministries are at odds with regards to delayed payments that the latter says are yet to receive approval for from the former. The standoff between the health and finance ministries has caused Kuwait to struggle to pay dues owed to European and American hospitals where citizens are being treated under the treatment overseas program.

Meanwhile, 11 financial controllers will be questioned over accusations of delinquency and irregularities in the treatment abroad file, said sources familiar with the issue. The finance ministry had accused the health ministry of mismanagement, which led to squandering in the budget allocated for treatment abroad. However, the health ministry responded by saying that all funds were spent after receiving approval from independent financial controllers. As a result, an investigation was opened and 11 controllers were identified to be questioned, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Health ministry officials had warned in earlier reports that several hospitals could resort to legal action to demand a total of KD 150 million that Kuwait reportedly still owes them. The total amount of monthly allocations sent to patients abroad is KD 40 million, after being approved by a joint committee from the health and finance ministries. KD 300 million has been spent on treatment aboard during the period between Jan 1 and Aug 15, 2016, while KD 550 million was spent last year, Al-Qabas daily reported last week, adding that more than 12,000 citizens are sent for treatment abroad through the health ministry. The government had approved only KD 150 million for treatment abroad in the 2016/2017 fiscal year’s budget as part of austerity measures taken to offset the effects of a deficit as a result of a drop in oil prices.

Meanwhile, the head of Kuwait’s health office in Paris Dr Fahd Al-Rashidi refuted news reports on social media that claimed that the office has been closed, stressing that the office is still serving Kuwaiti citizens in Paris.The office’s doors are open to all Kuwaiti patients undergoing treatment in France, Rashidi told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) yesterday, expressing his thanks to the Kuwaiti Embassy in Paris for its relentless efforts. Furthermore, he said that the office has expanded its cooperation with French medical institutions in 13 different French cities to ensure better services for Kuwaiti patients.

By A Saleh

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