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Healthcare in Qatar is consistently rated as among the best in the Middle-East. Qatar’s doctors, many of whom are expats, are highly proficient and both Qatar’s public and private hospitals are excellent.
Many Qatari residents are guaranteed access to free or subsidised healthcare through Qatar’s public healthcare system, while more expensive private care exists for those who desire faster or more specialist treatment. The state has recently explored different approaches to healthcare dispensation which might impact both the private and public healthcare systems in the future. An example can be seen in the suspended Social Medical Insurance Scheme, which would have made private health insurance compulsory for all expats, while also restricting expat access to public healthcare.
Having benefited from huge state investment, Qatar’s public hospitals and clinics are well equipped and employ highly proficient medical staff. The public healthcare system operates through the state-run Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), which directs Qatar’s public medical facilities. Qatari nationals, or those with Qatari residency status, are provided with heavily subsidised and extensive public healthcare at HMC clinics or hospitals.
Public services are accessed through a government issued health card, which can be applied for at any HMC healthcare centre. Although subsidised public healthcare significantly reduces the cost of treatment, expats may still have to pay some medical costs.
Private healthcare in Qatar is a fast growing sector and is driven by both popular demand for quicker service as well as the gradual increase in Qatar’s population. Private healthcare provides more options for specialised procedures as well as greater freedom in determining who will treat you. Private facilities are as good as public ones, with the added advantage that treatments often occur faster.
As expat residents who use the public health system may find themselves still paying for some medicine and services, many expats invest in private health insurance to compliment any public care that they may receive. Many expats also enjoy private healthcare because their employers either subsidise or provide for their medical insurance. For these reasons, as well as the uncertainty over how the state will dispense public healthcare in the future, expats moving to Qatar should explore their private healthcare options.
Pharmacies and medicine
Pharmacies are common in Qatar, with many 24-hour pharmacies operating in Doha. Expats can also find pharmacies attached to most major hospitals. Qatari residents using their health cards can receive subsidised medicine from state-run pharmacies.
Although most medicine is available in Qatar, certain prescription medicines may not be available in the country. Some medicines which are common in the West, such as many brands of anti-depressants, are banned in Qatar and expats will not be able to get more supplies while in the country.
Qatar is an extremely safe country and expats should not encounter any major health hazards while in Qatar. Despite this, expats should speak to their doctor at least six weeks before travelling to Qatar to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date.
A health concern is that expats who are not used to searing temperatures can be susceptible to sunstroke and sunburn, as temperatures often reach 50°C during the summer months. Dehydration is also a risk during the hottest months. These environmental hazards can be avoided by drinking throughout the day and by staying indoors, especially during the mid-day heat.
999 in the general emergency number for Qatar and calls can be answered in English and Arabic. Response times for public ambulances are fast countrywide, but especially in Doha. Ambulances are usually directed to public hospitals but some private hospitals, as well as the Qatar Red Crescent, operate their own ambulance services. helicopter emergency rescue services are available across the country.