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New Kuwaiti hospital may not treat expatriates
April 14, 2018, 2:45 pm

First new public hospital in more than three decades will not treat Kuwait’s huge foreign-born worker population. Jaber Al Ahmad hospital which is scheduled to open this year will only treat citizens and not foreigners, informed sources have revealed, in what has widely been seen as a discriminatory measure against the state’s large number of low-paid manual migrant workers. 

The new KD 304 million ($1 billion) Jaber Hospital, 20 minutes’ drive away from downtown Kuwait City, is the first public hospital to be built in country where public services are under pressure since 1984.

The ministry added that the departments to be launched in the first phase will include general surgeries, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and ENT, while the wards will be launched in the second phase and the intensive care unit in the third.

The hospital is built over an area of 750,000 square meters, includes 13 floors (eight for patients and five for electro-mechanic services), and has a bed capacity of 1,168 beds, a dentistry building, a shelter, a nurse accommodation building, a central electro-mechanic equipment station, the casualty department and an OPDs building.

It is considered the largest in the Middle East and sixth worldwide Healthcare was free in Kuwait until recently and new charges for foreigners have been put in place to narrow the huge budget deficit because of low revenue from oil, although most affluent residents in the country opt for private providers.

The vast majority of foreigners - mainly from other Arab or Asian countries - used the public service which were heavily subsidised fees. Employers generally pay an annual health insurance fee of 50 dinars ($175) per worker per year. Around 70 per cent of Kuwait’s total population - 3.1 million of 4.5 million people - is thought to be foreign born.

 “[Migrant labourers] were granted their workers’ visa. They deserve to be treated with dignity,” a general surgeon in one of the hospitals stated. The discrimination goes against the Hippocratic Oath, he went on. “We are not supposed to look at their passports – we are supposed to deal with their medical conditions,” the doctor added.

Since 2016 hospitals and clinics in Jahra and Kuwait City had barred foreigners from using non-emergency services during the day time. The health care moves are just the latest in a string of government-sanctioned steps designed to prioritise the rights and well-being of Kuwaiti citizens at the expense of foreign-born residents of the country.

Other recent changes to the law mean that foreign workers must meet a monthly salary requirement in order to stay in the country, and be resident for two years before being able to get a driving licence.

Foreigners are increasingly blamed for Kuwait’s social ills as a way to deflect blame from the authorities, said Hind Francis, an analyst at the Rai Institute think tank.

“Many big problems that concern the public are blamed on the expatriates: congested roads, overcrowded hospitals, many areas in which public policy has failed,” she said.

— Staff Report

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