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Health ministry successful during pandemic despite challenges

KUWAIT: Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah speaks during the briefing. – KUNA

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s Health Minister Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah said his ministry has been successful in providing adequate healthcare to the public in spite of the many challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Laws on medical practices and related professions and the rights of patients and healthcare facilities are other important achievements, the minister said at a public government briefing.

He referred to a separate law on mental health, which aims to protect the medical and human rights of the psychiatric patient, and gives healthcare professionals the right to intervene to prevent the patient from inflicting potential danger to themselves or society. This law addresses the matters of confidentiality and examination and evaluation procedures for entering the healthcare facility along with the conditions for their stay, he explained. This is important, the minister said, because it targets the matter of families, who seek to get rid of their relative for inheritance rights or other reasons.

Separately, the ministry has increased the capacity of health facilities and hospitals in the calendar year to a number higher than the target stated in the country’s development plan despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. These include changes made at the new Amiri Hospital, Jaber Al-Ahmad Hospital and the New Jahra Hospital.

Regarding health indicators, the minister said that there is a noticeable decline in death rates from chronic and non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, stress and heart disease. This is a direct result of increased health awareness, the provision of health services and easy access to healthcare, which allowed Kuwait to rank first in the region in regards to comprehensive healthcare coverage.

In regards to healthcare services provided during the pandemic, he said the capacity for hospitalization increased by 50 percent, with increases to outpatient and virtual clinics. Digitization has also improved services, as several applications and e-platforms have been launched, including the COVID-19 platform, which provides the public and medical staff with figures and test results, efficiently and transparently.

Another is the Shlonak app, which serves those under state-imposed self-isolation, developed locally in record speed. The ministry also provides medical reports, clinic appointments, blood test results, prescription prices, health insurance payment and medical licensing services for state and private bodies along with individuals online.

Students’ health
Maintaining the health and safety of pupils and teaching staff during the COVID-19 pandemic is the main challenge for the Ministry of Education, minister Saud Al-Harbi said. “Among our priorities is also continuing to provide the right to education and preserving the structure of the educational system,” Harbi said during the public government briefing which was broadcasted on Kuwait TV.

The academic 2019-2020 year was completed thanks to long distance education, as the ministry trained more than 10,929 teachers for the matter. With the start of the new school year, some 1,243 video lessons were prepared, in addition to the activation of 457,222 online accounts for learners, 73,721 for teachers and 29,902 for senior school staff. The ministry also employed the use of indicators for the effectiveness of this strategy.

Most schools and departments have been linked to the Ministry of Education through an online network, he added in reference to another achievement under his watch, with 250 schools so far and others in the pipeline. Meanwhile, in regards to higher education, a ministry which also falls under the minister, he said that the number of students sent to pursue their academic learning abroad in 2020-21 has increased by 44 percent compared to a year prior, while student applications for medical studies rose by 12 percent.

Trade environment
Reforming the trade environment requires legislative developments to organize the business operation, said Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan. During his speech in the Ministerial Forum for Government Achievement ‘Achievements Despite Challenges,’ Roudhan affirmed that the ministry launched a legislative reform program resulted in 11 laws, most notably the Bankruptcy Law and the Law on Protection of Competition.

He pointed out that the ministry launched an integrated program to help transforming Kuwait into an attractive commercial environment in light of traditional government work, to achieve combating administrative corruption and preserve the time of initiators and employers. He emphasized that the ministry had worked to help Kuwait enter for the first time among the 10 most reforming countries in the world, among 190 countries, and Kuwait jumped 51 steps in the index of starting commercial activity, and surged 21 steps in the index of protecting minority investors.

Kuwait Stock Exchange was classified into an emerging market, which resulted in an influx of foreign capital, which exceeded $8 billion, and an increase in liquidity of 30 percent over last year, including 20 percent of foreign investments, he added. Furthermore, Roudhan said that during COVID-19 crisis, a national support program was launched to confront the repercussions of the pandemic, which resulted in enhancing food security through logistical support with more than 90 flights, resulting in the provision of approximately 2.3 million tons of refrigerated meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.

Road projects
The Public Authority for Roads has been able to relay twice as many roads as were planned for 2020, Minister of Public Works and the State Minister for Housing Dr Rana Al-Faris said. The inner roads of 48 areas, encompassing 531kms, were relayed, she said, mentioning that the focus was the most badly-affected areas, such as Sabahiya and Sabah Al-Nasser.

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Authority for Housing Welfare has also been able to complete several projects, namely East Taima and Southern Abdullah Al-Mubarak along with Al-Mutlaa City, the largest housing project implemented in the history and South Khaitan, which will benefit 1,448 Kuwaiti families.

Demographic imbalance
Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel shed light on the efforts made to address the demographic imbalances through a digital transformation of facilities management. Aqeel stated that the general strategy for the people with disabilities affairs is based on supporting all groups in society, improving the quality of their lives, equality in education, entertainment, health and vocational rehabilitation for the labor market, in addition to the approval of Law 73 of 2020 regarding the rights of persons with disabilities.

Within the general strategy for people with disabilities affairs, the national initiative to support mental health was launched and it aims to provide support to families of people with disabilities, she added. Furthermore, the minister also emphasized the efforts exerted to protect and preserve Kuwaiti families, including the introduction of a program that serves 32,000 families in need, and the adoption of a law on protection from domestic violence and international participation in the campaign to combat violence against women.

She pointed to the preparation of the Third Development Plan, which includes five axes, seven pillars, nine programs and 51 policies, which were prepared by hundreds of researchers and participants. The minister affirmed the government managed to appoint 12,924 candidates out of 15,680, providing online training to 500 trainees in coordination with the General Secretariat for Planning and Development.

60,000 prescriptions
Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh said that the Kuwait Fire Force has distributed more than 60,000 medical prescriptions during the pandemic to nationals and has finalized more than 80 percent of health and safety standard certifications electronically. On the achievements of the Public Authority for Civil Information, Saleh said that its most prominent is the launch of the contactless digital identification system, Hawyati, which has so far attracted more than 960,000 users, including individuals, government institutions and private businesses.

The body also continues to deliver civil ID cards to homes, with some 2,500 cards delivered a day. On the other hand, the Central Agency for Information Technology has created several digital platforms which serve nationals and residents alike, including the coronavirus platform, which has received more than 2.25 million visitors, among others. – KUNA

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