Qatar is fast-tracking the construction of a number of new hospitals and clinics as part of efforts to keep up with demand and establish the country as a regional and global leader in health care.
Under the Qatar Healthcare Facilities Master Plan (QHFMP), an ambitious 20-year policy blueprint launched in 2013, the government set itself the target of completing 48 new projects by the end of 2020, with 31 health clinics, eight diagnostic and treatment units, a general and a specialist hospital, two long-term facilities and five hospital expansions. As of early 2020 the plan was on track, with public capital expenditure – which accounts for approximately 80% of total health care spending – driving the agenda. However, progress is likely to be halted due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, as resources were redirected to treating and preventing the spread of the virus.
When the QHFMP was launched in 2013 the country’s public health care facilities had around 2400 hospital beds; by 2018 this figure exceded 3500 (see overview). The significant increase in beds came on the back of some major achievements in terms of expanding and upgrading health care infrastructure: between 2016 and 2018 six new public sector hospitals were opened, adding more than 1100 beds.
A number of specialist facilities, including the Communicable Disease Centre, the Women’s Wellness and Research Centre (WWRC) and the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute have also opened in recent years, expanding the range of services offered to patients. The Communicable Disease Centre, opened in 2016, is a 65-bed hospital specialising in the care, prevention and research of communicable diseases. Its work complements the growing number of preventive and specialist care facilities located in the country. The WWRC, which was established by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) in 2018, is the largest tertiary hospital for women in Qatar and the wider region. The Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, also run by HMC, provides integrated rehabilitation services and specialist care for patients recovering from stroke.
During the current five-year stage of the QHFMP, which runs from 2018 to 2022, the government is starting to shift some of the health care burden onto the private sector, opening a number of private facilities. As of 2019 Qatar had six private hospitals, over 200 private polyclinics, and numerous clinics, laboratories, pharmacies and other medical centres.
Sidra Medical and Research Centre (SMRC), opened in 2018, is the most recent addition to the portfolio of private facilities in Qatar and is now the largest private health care facility in the country, with 400 beds and the capacity to treat 275,000 outpatients annually. Funded by the Qatar Foundation, SMRC has a wide range of tertiary care facilities and services for women and children, from surgery to psychiatry. Some of its services are unique in the region. For example, it is the only women’s hospital in the region to offer robotic myomectomy, a technique that uses robotic machines to remove uterine fibroids. In addition, in 2019 it installed the Middle East’s first extracorporeal membrane oxygenation unit, which offers support to babies born with neonatal respiratory conditions.
In the coming years, the MoPH envisages greater private sector involvement in the development of health care facilities as part of its ambitious long-term goals, including its target to reach 5700 hospital beds by 2033. By 2022 it intends to increase the total number of beds in private hospitals by 25%.
To achieve these goals, it has looked to public-private partnerships and has given the private sector a larger role in the provision of health care services such as medical insurance. In 2019 the government invited bidders from the private sector to design, build and operate three hospitals on state-owned land in Abu Hamour and Al Shamal. These hospitals are set to add an additional 310 beds, with private operators expected to be given 25-year concessions on the land.
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