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Healthcare makeover: A top national priority

2. Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.
The fact that His Majesty King Abdullah held two meetings, within two months, to discuss progress in the health care sector and the universal national health insurance plan indicates one thing: The endeavor to take such a vital sector to the next level is a top priority in the ongoing reform process.اضافة اعلان

His Majesty obviously places the same importance on reforming the health sector as on the political, economic or administrative aspects of Jordanians’ lives.

In his November 21 meeting with the government to follow up on its measures to upgrade the health sector, the King stressed “the need for continuing to work toward reaching universal health coverage within a specific timeframe”, urging “concerted efforts by all stakeholders to support the health sector’s development”.

The process, including an inclusive health coverage, has been going on for years and much has been achieved. The National Strategy for the Health Sector 2016–2020 “placed universal health coverage as a strategic goal”, and saw the inclusion of citizens under 6 and above 60 in the plan.

According to the Universal Health Coverage Partnership, one of the World Health Organization’s platforms for global cooperation on universal health coverage, “Jordan’s economic development and political stability have helped it build one of the strongest health sectors in the region”. The loopholes in the provision of healthcare, according to the international platform, include the fact that “quality specialized care is concentrated in urban areas, with a weak referral system. Other challenges include an aging population and growing burden of chronic disease, as well as significant stress on public services placed by the influx of refugees from neighboring countries”.

During the November 21 meeting, Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said the government “is committed to enhancing the level of services at public hospitals and healthcare centers, by providing qualified cadres and the needed equipment, with the goal of reaching universal health coverage”.

The problem seems to be administrative more than financial, and this underlines the interlacing nature of reform tracks. In other words, better management of the health sector is one aspect of the administrative makeover, which, as His Majesty stressed many times, should end with better-quality services.

It is not enough to have more people under the umbrella of healthcare coverage when people still end up receiving low-quality services and, for example, have to wait for months for an MRI appointment, especially when wasta is, unfortunately, still used and a source of frustration for ordinary citizens.

His Majesty has always made it clear that all stakeholders need to be involved in drawing up the roadmap that helps each of the sub-processes achieve reform.

This takes us to the role of the private sector. Private entities, medical and others, have commendable expertise to contribute significant inputs into the project. It might be a good idea to amend relevant regulations in a way that considers private sector’s donations to an independent health coverage fund as part of its corporate social responsibility.

Learning from other countries’ experiences is key to boosting the health sector reform plan. In some countries, foreign investors are given the choice between hiring nationals for their projects or paying the cost of medical insurance for a specific number of citizens.

At the end, universal health insurance is all about sound planning and efficient execution. As international leader in global health Elvira Beracochea puts it, a “good (healthcare) system is one that is organized in a way to ensure timely access to the highest attainable standard of care to all its citizens; one that has the right programs managed by competent professionals”. It is an important tip to heed.

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.

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