Jordan implements tech solutions to tackle overcrowding in health sector

(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Minister of Health Firas Hawari has revealed the Kingdom’s strategies to address the challenges posed by overcrowding and its associated costs on the health sector. اضافة اعلان

In a seminar organized by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Hawari emphasized the implementation of technology-driven scientific solutions to enhance the efficiency of the healthcare system, the agency reported.

The minister outlined several measures aimed at resolving the issue, including the construction of new hospitals, the establishment of a virtual hospital, and the utilization of technology to manage pharmaceutical warehouses.

He also acknowledged the challenges facing the sector, such as the increasing number of refugees hosted in the country and the decline in international support for countries accommodating Syrian refugees.

Hawari highlighted that Jordan has historically received waves of refugees from various countries, with the latest influx consisting of approximately 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Out of this population, 10 percent reside in camps, while the remaining 90 percent live across the Kingdom's governorates.

Beds per people
The combined impact of the refugee influx, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Ukrainian crisis has strained the national economy and affected bed capacity in the Jordanian health sector.

The number of available beds has decreased from 1.8 beds per thousand people to 1.42 beds per thousand people. According to the World Health Organization, low-income countries should have at least one bed per 1,000 citizens, while middle-income countries like Jordan should aim for 3.9 beds per 1,000 people.

Despite these challenges, the Ministry of Health has remained committed to providing basic healthcare services to Syrian refugees on an equal footing with Jordanian citizens. The minister underscored that medical services for non-Jordanians, including refugees, are subsidized by 85 percent since they are not covered by health insurance.

However, he expressed concern over the diminishing financial support from the international community, which negatively impacts the sustainability and resilience of the national health sector.

Hawari emphasized the importance of continued financial support for Jordan, one of the largest host countries for Syrian refugees.

During a recent visit to Geneva, he held discussions with the President and Regional Director of the World Health Organization, urging the organization and its donors to maintain their support for refugees in Jordan and the Jordanian health sector.

Achievements and measures
Regarding achievements and measures taken, Hawari highlighted the implementation of royal directives aimed at developing and improving the healthcare system.

These include providing quality health services for patients, constructing new hospitals, incorporating technology into healthcare, digitizing medical records in all hospitals, enhancing primary healthcare services in health centers, improving supply chain and medication management through an electronic system, and adopting a collaborative approach with the Jordanian Royal Medical Services, universities, the private sector, and civil society institutions.

To address overcrowding, the minister mentioned plans to establish approximately six new hospitals across different governorates. However, due to the high costs involved, the ministry is also exploring alternative approaches, such as enhancing primary healthcare provided in health centers through the family medicine model.

Tech driven solutions
Regarding technology-driven solutions, Hawari highlighted the concept of virtual hospitals as a prospective joint venture with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship.

The virtual hospital aims to reduce admissions to central hospitals and provide comparable healthcare services. By electronically connecting with major hospitals in the Kingdom, specialist physicians can review patient scans and medical records remotely and provide diagnoses to doctors in hospitals located on the outskirts. This approach aims to minimize staff and patient transfers.

The minister acknowledged Jordan's resilience and effective management of the health sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the limited number of available beds.

Throughout the crisis, the Ministry of Health opened six hospitals with a total capacity of 650 beds, expanded and equipped 36 health centers, improved the efficiency of 150 other centers, consolidated primary health centers into comprehensive centers, increased scholarships for doctors in main specialties and sub-specialties, and expanded the residency program to attract more specialist healthcare professionals.

Addressing shortages
To address medication shortages, the ministry plans to purchase medicines through bids covering a 22-month period, a first in its history. The minister assured that the issue of medicine shortages has been resolved through financial agreements with pharmaceutical companies.

Hawari reaffirmed Jordan's commitment to achieving comprehensive health coverage by 2030.

Currently, approximately 3.9 million people are covered by civil health insurance, while 1.9 million Jordanians and 1.3 million Syrian refugees lack health insurance.

The ministry's 2023–2025 strategy, launched in March, prioritizes sustainability and accounts for various challenges and circumstances. It adopts a public health and preventive medicine approach, along with the family health model in primary healthcare.

The strategy aims to improve access to quality primary and preventive healthcare services, ensure fairness, promote effective community participation, implement programs to combat communicable diseases, control their spread, and expand the national vaccination program by introducing new vaccines.

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