|Medical sector in the flux of open market forces
|The medical sector in Jordan remains relatively healthy. Economists believe the sector is still developing|
JORDAN (Star) - The medical sector in Jordan remains relatively healthy. Economists believe the sector is still developing. With some 90 hospitals currently working around the Kingdom, the medical sector is considered one of the most highly evolved medical sectors in the region.
Almost two-thirds of the Kingdom's hospitals are owned by the private sector. Economists believe the private sector in Jordan has been the guiding light for development in the sector. Figures clearly illustrate this to be the case. According to statistics in 2001 each doctor in Jordan serves 500 people, every hospital serves some 6000 people.
Statistics reveal the annual national expenditure on healthcare at approximately JD 500 million, about 12.5 percent of the GDP. The per capita expenditure is estimated at JD 100. About 65 percent of the population is included in public sector insurance. Private sector insurance covers only a remaining 6 percent. This leaves nearly 29 percent of the population not covered by any medical insurance.
"Jordan has the most developed medical system compared to other countries in the region," said Tayseer Wahbeh, director of the Sectorial and Project Studies at the Arab Bank. "However, the sector in Jordan is still below required quality levels." Wahbeh explained many hospitals in the Kingdom are not yet qualified to meet mounting demands for bed occupancy. "There is no specific action plan to co-ordinate medical services in Jordan and develop them to meet public demands."
The Ministry of Health in Jordan is the fourth biggest ministry, receiving an annual budget of JD 120 million from the government. The health budget has built in back up for emergency activities and expenses, with 40 percent of the national health expenditure going toward purchasing medicine.
Dr Nasri Khouri, general director of the Palestine Hospital, said private hospitals in Jordan have helped the medical sector diversify its activities and provide healthy competition amongst all hospitals in the Kingdom. "Jordan is well known for its refined medical services. The private hospitals are the benchmark for these services to develop and grow fast and largely," Khouri added.
Wahbeh made it clear a specific national action plan will require five elements to make it real: A clear decision-making process, a strong well-formulated structure, a legalized system of medical standards, a specific health strategies for youth, and re-organizing the medical-care environment in Jordan. The medical sector in Jordan produces services and goods worth an estimated JD 115 million dinars each year. Two years ago that figure was JD 113 million. Experts believe private hospitals in Jordan are the ones bearing the brunt of growth in the sector.
Khouri affirmed rapid growth in the local medical sector has affected the quality of its services. Khouri denied private hospitals are pro-profit, however. Statistics show for-profit hospitals in Jordan comprise 75 percent of the overall hospitals. "Non-profit hospitals need to be promoted to strengthen the trust between people and the medical sector," Khouri explained. "Contributions made to non-profit hospitals are accepted only if they are used to benefit both the private hospital and its patients."
Experts agree the rapid increase in national expenditure on health comes from an imbalanced medical sector in Jordan. Here, experts say, the government needs to apply certain requirements to help the sector benefit from the open-market concept. Enacting applicable laws and regulations, having a clear control of the mobility of doctors in local market, and enforcing a vocational control to prevent any kind of conflict of interest in the future are keys to successful future development. Non-profit hospitals are available everywhere in Jordan, working either through foreign missionaries or partnerships amongst local and foreign businessmen.
All are governed within specific regulations to ensure transparent financial and managerial performance. "Non-profit hospitals are a significant part of developing the medical sector in the Kingdom. They should be promoted through partnership between the private and public sectors," Khouri said.