The Gulf Coast nation of Oman is seeing a rise in private health care services, the result of efforts to expand domestic health care systems to meet demand.
New private facilities are changing a medical landscape that has been dominated by government-funded medical infrastructure.
A Sept. 18 story in Business Today discusses new hospitals opening up in the city of Muscat and other central areas of Oman, calling the move an “aggressive expansion” plan by private health care providers.
“The country's population is growing, and that means there will be demand for quality medical services despite having economic problems due to softening of crude oil prices,” Muscat Private Hospital CEO Dr. Aladin al Amri said in a press release. “It gives us confidence that private hospitals will have a great future in the country.”
Reports on Oman’s national health system talk about a “cradle-to-grave” welfare system provided by the country for its citizens. With a public health plan, health care in the country is effectively free to Oman nationals. However, low oil prices are putting pressure on the nation's finances and have hampered efforts to increase health care spending. Allowing private health care to compete is considered a solution by some.
Diya Menon sees private health care playing a growing role in the future of Oman’s economy.
As assistant manager of business research at Aranca, Menon has over three years of business research experience in health care, financial services and other sectors.
“Oman has come a long way, from just two hospitals in 1970 to around 70 in 2015,” she recently told Gulf News Journal, estimating that 70 percent of those facilities are government-owned. “However, the government’s ability to invest in new facilities has reduced owing to the softening of crude oil prices.”
Citing a gap in supply and long waiting periods for patients, Menon said many residents are traveling to other countries for health care, which, in some cases, is being sponsored by the government.
“Private facilities are aggressively trying to bridge this gap,” she said. “Many private hospitals, including Muscat Private Hospital and Starcare Hospitals, are planning to expand their current facilities. Mega projects -- such as a large medical city which the government is setting up on the outskirt of Muscat -- are being implemented through a Public Private Partnership model.”
However, Menon suggested that without some form of pay-in by patients, private investments might not be enough to keep the nation’s health care system afloat.
“Along with the adoption of such models, the private sector would be able to effectively manage the burden of government hospitals with the planned introduction of compulsory health insurance like other GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia,” Menon said. “Further, various government initiatives such as the country’s Health Vision 2050 increasing focus on innovation and implementation of a hospital certification plan are expected to drive the health care segment in Oman.”