Qatar’s world-class healthcare system and facilities, including the government’s immigration reforms, are key factors in the country’s transformation into a prime destination for medical tourism, according to the Philippine Business Council-Qatar (PBC-Q).
The Ministry of Public Health, in a recent statement, reported that Qatar’s healthcare spending “is among the highest in the Middle East, with QR22.7bn invested in healthcare in 2018, a 4% increase from the previous year.”
In the same statement, the ministry announced the findings of London-based think tank, Legatum Institute, which reported that the country’s health system ranked fifth ‘Best in the World’ and the first in the Middle East.
PBC-Q chairman Greg Loayon told Gulf Times Tuesday that aside from the rapid development growth in Qatar’s health system, the easing of visa regulations to more than 80 countries would bolster the country’s transformation into a medical tourism hub in the region.
Loayon pointed out that those seeking medical treatment abroad are accompanied by a support system, mostly family members and close relatives, who are, likewise, required to acquire visas for the destination country.
“Qatar is a good destination because of its visa-free policies, especially for people who are unable to secure visas for treatment in the US or Europe. The easing of these regulations is an opportunity for Qatar to market itself as a destination for medical tourism because it made it easy for many nationalities to enter the country with their families.
“For example, cancer is a social disease and so when a patient goes for treatment, they don’t go alone, and they tend to come with a support system comprising family members. So, the ease with which people are able to get a visa or the non-requirement for a visa to Qatar makes it a lot more convenient,” Loayon explained.
He stressed that Qatar also has the opportunity to develop sectors around specialised types of treatment in the region, “considering that the country has a lot of the best equipment at its disposal.”
Reacting to the Legatum Institute report, HE the Minister of Public Health Dr Hanan Mohamed al-Kuwari said Qatar has invested heavily in the health sector under the wise leadership of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
“The top placement in the international index is a reflection of the country’s commitment to system-wide priorities to both meet the needs of future generations and improve the health of the current population,” the minister said.
Since 2017, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has opened four new hospitals: Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital, Women’s Wellness and Research Centre, the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, and the Ambulatory Care Centre - significantly expanding its infrastructure and the range of services offered to patients.
Dr al-Kuwari said the opening of the new facilities, along with the expansion of existing services, is part of the long-term plan set out in the National Health Strategy 2018-2022.
Loayon also lauded the government’s efforts to open avenues of cooperation with the private sector and the strengthening of its relationship with strategic local and international partners.