According to unofficial statistics, the numbers of Kuwaitis sent for treatment abroad jumped by over 500 percent over the past four years. Statistics also showed that 11,825 citizens were treated abroad in 2015 alone. In addition, local and international economic reports showed that Kuwait had spent over KD 400 million on treatment abroad in 2013, when 3,044 citizens were sent abroad to receive medical treatment at the government’s expense. The report also said that the number was 2,580 in 2012 and jumped to 5,531 in 2014.
However, despite lack of accurate figures about the total cost, well-informed health sources stressed that the Ministry of Health (MoH) had to pay KD 230 million out of its budget for treatment abroad this year alone. The sources stressed that treatment abroad was ‘draining’ the MoH budget and overburdens the state budget, especially since many of cases dispatched for treatment abroad are not critical enough to deserve being dispatched. “Some cases were sent abroad for ‘loss of appetite’, weak eyesight or spondylosis, which can all be treated easily in Kuwait,” stressed the sources, noting that the ministry pays the cost of sending patients and their companions abroad for treatment although several international doctors are visiting Kuwait monthly.
The sources explained that the process has been affected by interference by some lawmakers and that seeing many of them regularly visit the treatment abroad department was becoming a regular scene, where they mediated to send some of their family members, supporters or constituents abroad for treatment of simple ailments, while citizens with more critical cases who actually need the service remain in Kuwait.
In addition, the sources explained that the allowances paid per patient and companion were usually given to dispatched ‘patients’ on arrival to their destinations, which means that they get the money even before seeing doctors or checking into hospitals or medical centers.