Kuwait: A Healthcare Gem of the Middle East

Kuwait: A Healthcare Gem of the Middle East

27th Jul 2016

When most people think of moving to the Middle East they only consider the high profile countries like The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar- not the smaller kingdoms of Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

Kuwait CityKuwait City Towers

Kuwait - Geography

Nestled at the top of the Persian (Arabian) Gulf bordering Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Kuwait is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with much of this wealth courtesy of it being home to some of the planet’s largest oil reserves.

Kuwait - Economy

The oil is perhaps what Kuwait is most well known for, but many people are unaware that Kuwait is also home to one of the most politically open monarchies in the Gulf. This makes it a far more relaxed place than neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait - Healthcare System

In Kuwait there is both a private and a public healthcare system. The public system is free at the point of need for Kuwaiti nationals (who make up just 31% of the population) and can be accessed by expats if they pay an annual fee.

The public system can be extremely busy, and so trial schemes have been introduced banning expats from visiting hospitals, clinics and surgeries at certain times, whilst plans for separate expat hospitals have also been spoken about.

Most well off expats in Kuwait will use the private healthcare system where waiting times are much lower and no curfew is in place. Private healthcare fees are controlled by the government so although they can be expensive they are capped to keep them in the reach of most expats in the country.

Kuwait has, according to the world bank, the 4th highest per capita income in the world (behind Singapore, Luxembourg and joint 1st positioned Qatar and Macau). As a result of this the state healthcare system is generously funded - with around 3% of the country's GDP going directly into the healthcare sector.

 

This investment pays off with the average life expectancy of those in the country rising by almost 15 years since 1970. Further to this the number of state and private hospital beds in the country also continues to grow as the population ages. Currently there are over 7000 public hospital beds, and over 1100 in the private sector according to the latest official figures (published in 2014).

 

The well funded but busy public system and ever growing private system can be the perfect place for you to further your career, however many people are wary about moving to a kingdom that they know little about, and that receives very little public attention.

 

Kuwait - Culture

Kuwait is a country which divides the opinion of many who move there, it takes an open minded person prepared for a different lifestyle to commit to a move there.

 

Despite having a fairly open (by Gulf standards) political system, and being far less conservative than Saudi Arabia, Kuwait is still a Muslim country, and it is less relaxed than the United Arab Emirates. Alcohol is banned and you should ensure that you dress respectably to avoid attracting unwanted attention.

 

Despite this it still has an unmistakable western feel courtesy of the large number of Western expats, English speakers and recognisable brand names.

 

The capital, Kuwait City, is a modern metropolis that retains a traditional Arabic feel. It’s an eclectic mix of stunning pre-oil boom buildings and cutting edge skyscrapers.

 

Perhaps the most popular attraction in the entire country is ‘The Avenues Mall’. This mammoth shopping centre is split into 7 districts and is home to over 800 stores selling just about everything imaginable.

 

It has regularly been described as one of the most beautiful shopping malls in the world, and this is largely as a result of its varied internal architecture. Shops are built in diverse styles from contemporary glass structures, to British style townhouses and Italian cafes.

 

‘The Avenues’ is home to plenty of recognisable brands, from Dolce & Gabbana to Debenhams, with each shop having it’s own style and character unlike other, more generic, shopping centres.

 

There’s plenty of other things to see and do in the city as well however, you can visit the modern Kuwait Towers for a stunning view over the country, or the Souq Al Mubarakeya - the country’s largest open air marketplace.

 

Kuwait City has a real family atmosphere, with the whole lifestyle in the country geared towards family living. There are plenty of amusements for families to enjoy such as water and theme parks, with the malls all hosting various clubs and activities.

 

Kuwait - Education

Of course when moving abroad with a family education is a major concern for most parents. As a nation effectively built on immigration Kuwait is home to plenty of British, American and Canadian schools. Fees can range from around 2000KWD (£4000) to 4000KWD (£8000) depending on the school you choose and the age of your children.

 

The fees therefore are often more affordable than many private educational institutions in Britain - and further to this an allowance may be provided as part of your salary package from your new employers to help cover the cost of educating any school age children you have.

 

Kuwait - Working Conditions

If Kuwait was not a destination you had previously considered moving your career to, then perhaps now it may be one which you are considering.

 

Working hours are, as is commonplace in most middle eastern countries, lower than they would be in the National Health Service, with a focus placed on achieving a good balance between your work and family life.

 

Furthermore there is less of the paperwork which is strangling many NHS medics and prohibiting them from treating patients, and the facilities - particularly in the private sector - are akin to those in the very best American or Canadian hospitals. Most are modern, and equipped with the most up to date equipment as well as being well staffed to ensure the workload is kept manageable.

 

Understaffing is rare meaning that medics can place a focus on providing a high quality of care to their patients rather than being forced to work through a large quantity without having the time to fully understand their needs and getting to know them.

 

One of the main factors that people give for moving abroad - and particularly moving to the Middle East - is the financial benefits a move can bring.

 

As with most similar countries there is no formal income tax and so all of your earnings will be entirely tax free. This, combined with potential incentives from your employer, can make Kuwait an extremely financially rewarding place to call home.

 

Your salary will be dependent on the hospital you are working at, the experience you have and the demand for treatment within that hospital, however most hospitals will pay salaries akin to those in most Western countries. This, tax free income, is combined with various other incentives to make the move more appealing.

 

Fully furnished accommodation or an allowance to cover the cost of housing is usually provided along with flights to and from the country, 30 days paid leave, up to 14 days study leave, health insurance for yourself and your family and incentive schemes to help boost your income further. All of this can combine to make a move to Kuwait a very rewarding financial opportunity.

 

With such an attractive salary package hospitals in Kuwait expect a high calibre of medic. Hospitals will look for accreditation from a prestigious board with British, American, Canadian and German being the most sought after. Other, similar, board accreditations may also be accepted however, assuming the candidate has the relevant experience and skills.

 

A knowledge of the Arabic language may also be required - especially in the public sector - whilst in the private sector any suitable second language will be looked upon favourably. 3 to 4 years of experience is the minimum that is likely to be accepted, with more experience - especially in other Arab countries - only acting to increase your chances of gaining employment in Kuwait.

 

Life in Kuwait is similar to the other Arab kingdoms. It is a devout Muslim country and as a result follows certain traditions - albeit less strongly than Saudi Arabia - that Westerners may not be aware of.

 

Firstly, the weekend in Kuwait is either Friday/Saturday or Thursday/Friday. Akin to Sunday in Christianity Friday is the most sacred day in Islam and so the weekend is always based around spending it with family and friends.

 

As well as this it’s important that you dress modestly in public, and avoid showing affection in public. This avoids unwanted attention from the locals, and potential custodial sentences.

 

Home life is similar to life within most cities, compounds purely for expats are less widespread with most people living in apartments or villas. Apartments are often cared for full-time by a ‘haris’ or manager who will carry out essential maintenance on the building, keep it secure and often (for a small fee) take out rubbish and wash the resident’s cars.

 

Kuwait is a safe country on the whole, with a low crime rate and only occasional unrest caused by political protests. This relaxed atmosphere is continued throughout everyday life, and working within a hospital is far less stressful than it would be in most western facilities.

 

One area where Kuwait isn’t so relaxed however is on the roads. The cheap price of fuel makes driving by far the most widespread method of transport, with a lack of pedestrian infrastructure and chaotic bus network. This can make driving in Kuwait a hugely different experience to doing so almost anywhere else.

 

Many families in the country employ a driver therefore to help them get around, this doesn’t cost a great deal more than the outright purchase of a car and can be the safest and most comfortable way to travel in the country.

 

The large expat community in Kuwait makes it an easy place to find and socialise with people who share your interests. They can also be the perfect people to find out crucial local information from - such as the best areas to live in and how to get about.

 

If you do make the move to Kuwait then talk to as many people currently residing there as you can to make sure you settle in, and make the most of life in the country.

 

One of the most common reasons people have for not taking their career overseas is concerns about the immigration process. Realistically however this needn’t be a concern as it’s a fairly straightforward and routine process.

 

Kuwait - Immigration

If you are moving to Kuwait you will need to apply for a work and residence permit - the Iquama. A contract - in Arabic - will then be signed by you and your new employer before a NOC (no objection certificate) is granted.

 

Once the NOC has been awarded then you should submit your work permit application to the Kuwaiti embassy, undergo a medical and have your fingerprints taken for security purposes.

 

As long as you have a passport, birth certificate, no criminal convictions and pass the medical then the visa process should take between 3 and 7 months. Depending on demand and any potential issues however this range can increase to nearer 10 months in some cases.

 

The visa that you have been granted will last as long as your employment with the sponsor, so for most people it’s a one off task.

 

It seems like a lot, but the paperwork is routine and often medics can be fasttracked into the country if the demand is particularly high, or the hospital needs new members of staff quickly.

 

Life in Kuwait isn’t for everyone, it’s not a bustling, cutting edge, western style metropolis like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, nor is it akin to the traditional, staunchly religious Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A lack of media attention means that it is often overlooked by expats in favour of its higher profile neighbours.

 

This can make a move a very realistic possibility for plenty of trained medics, Kuwait’s healthcare system is world class and both the public and private facilities are generously funded and well staffed.

 

As well as this Kuwait can offer some of the highest tax free incomes in the world, stunning architecture, year round sunshine and plenty of activities and sights to explore.

 

If life in Kuwait is sounding appealing to you then register on our website https://www.odysseyrecruitment.com/ and like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/odysseyrec for job alerts and all the latest news from the country’s healthcare sector.

 

Kuwait - Sunset over Kuwait CityKuwait City Sunset

 

Kuwait - Basic Figures

Capital

Kuwait City

Biggest City

Kuwait City

Language

Arabic, English

National Anthem

Al-Nasheed Al-Watani

Total Area

17,820km2

Population

4,348,395

GDP

$301.289

GDP Per Capita

$71,318

Emir

Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah

Crown Prince

Nawaf Ahmad al-Sabah

Prime Minister

Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah

Currency

Kuwaiti Dinar

Population Density

200.2 per km2

Calling Code

+965

Internet

.kw

Unemployment Rate

2.2%

Net Migration Rate

-1.11 per 1000

National Colours

Green, white, red and black

National Plant

Arfaj

National Animal

Camel

 

Title: Points scored

Title: Points scored

Title: Points scored

Main Health Issues in Kuwait

 

Heart Disease & Strokes - Akin to most Gulf countries Ischaemic heart disease is the biggest single killer of residents in Kuwait, and combined with strokes kills over 1500 people every year. The lifestyle enjoyed by many in the country is one of the main reasons behind this high figure. Unhealthy diets are widespread and a lack of physical activity has lead to Kuwait being branded the ‘fattest nation on earth’ with an estimated 42.8% of the population classed as being obese.

 

Diabetes - Another health condition that can be caused by a poor diet is diabetes, and rates in Kuwait are amongst the highest in the world with around 37% of the population suffering from the condition - almost double the world’s average. Patients with diabetes will also find themselves at a higher risk of eyesight disorders, heart conditions and kidney failure.

 

Lower Respiratory Problems - Such as bronchitis and lung abscesses are seemingly on the rise in Kuwait, although strict bans on smoking in public places are covering more and more areas with the hope of reducing this statistic in the future. Last year over 4000 people lost their life as a direct result of a respiratory condition, a rise of over 100 on previous years.

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