Patients in Qatar’s public healthcare system are facing months-long waits for appointments, leaving them frustrated and helpless.
Despite a decrease in COVID-19 pressures, people in Qatar are still experiencing long waiting times for essential medical treatments, putting their health and lives at risk. Long waiting times for essential medical treatments have forced patients to leave their illnesses untreated and turn minor issues into more severe conditions. Waiting times have been the subject of growing concern over the past years, with many patients citing long wait times and inadequate support as their primary complaints.
Sara (not real name) has a story that is just one example of what patients are facing. She had her first miscarriage in October 2020, and she and her husband wanted to try again to see if something was wrong. She went to a public hospital where all necessary medical exams could be completed for free. Unfortunately, the hospital staff informed her that she would have to wait three months to see a doctor. Finally, when she saw a doctor, they sent her to the wrong one who didn’t understand her condition.
This wait left her with five miscarriages over the past two years. “I just want to know why this keeps happening to me. I would have felt less anxious if I had received medical care earlier. Going through miscarriages is very exhausting mentally, and it is even harder when you can’t seek the medical help you need,” she said. She will not know the results of her medical procedures until May 2023, almost a year after her first visit.
Stresses on medical staff
Patients are not the only ones frustrated with the healthcare system. Recently, the pressures of the pandemic coupled with World Cup stress have taken a tremendous toll. Doctors, nurses, and other essential workers on the front line say they’re risking their lives while living in a constant state of uncertainty. Despite their efforts to save lives, healthcare workers feel they are not getting the respect and appreciation they deserve.
Qatar’s healthcare system has faced increasing amounts of issues over the past few years. Waiting times for an appointment in the main state hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation takes up to a year. Specialties wards like dentistry and cardio are most overloaded. Additionally, almost 40% of people who took part in the survey said they had to wait for more than six months to get an appointment at HMC or PHCC facilities.
To alleviate the pressure, Qatar is considering new regulations– most of which will switch the wait to private hospitals. In 2021, authorities introduced a new mandatory health insurance system for all non-Qatari nationals living in or visiting Qatar. This could divert health traffic towards private hospitals and clinics. Consequently, leaving more space for HMC to receive more patients and thus lessening the waiting time.
Two-tiered health systems are common in Gulf countries, but Qatar’s move raises questions of nationalizing public healthcare for citizens only. This shift to private hospitals means thousands of migrant workers can’t afford reimbursement or excess cover. It will leave many without the healthcare they need.
To address these issues, the Qatar public healthcare system needs to reduce wait times, support healthcare workers, and ensure equitable access to essential health services for all residents. Until these problems are solved, patients will face long wait times for critical treatments.