KUWAIT: The growing numbers of private hospitals and clinics in Kuwait attracted many Kuwaiti doctors from the government health facilities in the recent years, which turned to be a phenomenon of migration. This phenomenon adds strains on the medical staff at public hospitals and poses risk to the efficacy of the health system in its entirety, observers believe. There are administrative, technical and financial causes that prompted the medical staff to turn to private health facilities. These include the lack of a legal system to protect Kuwaiti physicians against claims of medical errors in case of adverse effects on patients, the retirees’ health insurance program dubbed ‘Afiya,’ and the relatively low salaries at public hospitals.
Dr Hussein Al-Majadi, chief anesthetist and head of the ICU at Al-Razi Hospital, suggests reconsideration of the experiment of integrating the private health sector into the government-run one. “This integration negatively affects the performance of physicians,” he said. “The phenomenon of migrating physicians led to shortage in the medical staff at public health facilities and added strains on the doctors who choose to continue to work,” he pointed out.
Dr Majadi highlighted the need of implementing a supervisory mechanism for the private health facilities and beefing up the inspection teams in keeping with the expansions of this sector with a view to minimizing the practices that could harm the medical profession. On the relation between Afiya program and the phenomenon of migrating physicians, he said the idea of the program is generally good and signals the care of the Ministry of Health for the retirees’ health. “However, some privately-run health institutions have manipulated beneficiaries from this program and offer drugs and medications that already exist in government-gun hospitals,” he said, noting that the public hospitals offer better service.
Dr Majadi called for controls on practices such as patients’ resumption of their medication at public hospitals after expiry of their Afiya credits and patients’ missing of the dates of their surgeries or magnetic resonance sessions without notifying the concerned hospital, which leads to plunder of public funds.
Meanwhile, Dr Ra’ed Behbahani, eye surgery consultant at Al-Bahar Ophthalmology Center, said Afiya program materialized the desire of the Ministry to involve the private sector in providing better health service to the citizens and cope with the population growth. He voiced hope for expanding the program to include other age groups. Regarding the attractiveness of the private sector health facilities, he said these facilities provide competitive environment where doctors feel more independent and free from the bureaucratic, administrative and technical constraints besides the financial returns.
Asked on the integration of doctors’ work at public and private health facilities, he said this experiment is followed in many other countries. Behbahani believes that this practice has no impact on the performance of doctors. He urged early finalization of the draft law on regulation of the medical profession, highlighting the need to protect physicians against coerced litigation resulting from confusion of medical errors with implications of certain drugs. He also called for modernization of the civil service laws relating to remunerations in a way that could avoid late remuneration of doctors and take stock of their efficiencies. Dr Behbahani appreciated the efforts of the Ministry of Health to provide quality service for patients and ensure complementarity of the public and private health facilities. – KUNA