Kuwait is partnering with the U.S. Army of Engineers in building a $1.7 billion military hospital, one of nine new hospitals to be built in the next few years to meet rising demand for health services.
Unlike its neighbors in the Middle East, Kuwait has not been as active in building new healthcare facilities. But a recent announcement from the government of plans to build nine new hospitals in the next few years could finally match the anticipated growth in the country’s healthcare sector, which will be worth $6.9 billion by 2020 -- third highest in the whole region.
The plan to build nine new hospitals for a cost of KD 1.25 billion, will add 3,800 extra beds, 90 surgical theatres, 120 casualty beds and 250 outpatient clinics, in addition to pharmacies, laboratories, radiology and physiotherapy departments.
Among the first in the pipeline of hospital projects is an expansion of the existing Armed Forces Hospital. Under the $1.7 billion deal announced recently by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will design, construct, operate and maintain the Kuwaiti Armed Forces Hospital. It will also procure medical and non-medical equipment and information technology resources for the hospital, which will also have a new central utilities plant, site utilities, covered parking, roads, and an enclosed pedestrian circulation connector to the existing hospital. The USACE will also provide project management, engineering and technical support services to the project.
“The facility scope of work is similar to other facilities built in the past by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in other Middle Eastern countries. This facility will provide healthcare services for members of the Kuwait uniformed services, their dependents and other eligible beneficiaries,” the news release stated. “Services will include ambulatory and inpatient services for tertiary level care, emergency medicine with Level I Trauma certification capability, and clinical support activities.”
Kuwaiti government representatives have not confirmed the deal with USACE.
In contrast to other Middle East countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Kuwait has not built a brand new hospital in decades, opting instead to refurbish and expand existing ones to meet growing demand for healthcare services. New hospitals in the pipeline could finally bridge that gap, but healthcare remains a controversial topic in the country because of laws that restrict access.
For instance, even though two-thirds of Kuwait’s population are expatriates, foreign workers are banned from using public facilities in the morning, except in emergency cases. If a new proposal is passed, all visitors in Kuwait may soon only be treated in private hospitals, and not in the newly constructed hospitals.
Current insurance laws require an expat to pay $175 in annual fees plus additional charges to cover a limited range of medical procedures. Planned changes to insurance policies can jack up the premiums even higher.
Even Kuwaiti citizens are lamenting the changes in Kuwaiti’s healthcare laws, with one report from Zawya quoting an unidentified source in saying that, “Spending billions to build more medical facilities is fine, but it’s worthless if citizens are sent to get medical services in private hospitals.” The statement refers to senior citizens not being able to fully get treatment from a future hospital specially made for senior citizens themselves, if current policies remain.