Muscat – Despite the government’s efforts over the years to develop the health sector, many Omanis seek medical treatment abroad for several reasons, the most often cited being the long waiting period.
The most common treatments for which patients go abroad include dental care, surgery (including cosmetic surgery), infertility treatment, cancer treatment, and organ and tissue transplantation.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Amna al Balushi, member of Seeb Municipal Council, said, “Long waiting time in hospitals, sometimes as long as a year, compel many to seek treatment abroad. Some also prefer to travel abroad due to the availability of advanced medical technologies and expertise.”
Amna, however, added that she is proud of the healthcare infrastructure and health professionals in the sultanate, “who proved their capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Hilal al Sarmi, chairman of the Health and Environmental Committee of Majlis A’Shura, described a recent announcement by the Ministry of Health to form a committee to review treatment cost in private hospitals is an “excellent step”.
“A review of treatment costs will prompt more patients to go to private hospitals and relieve the pressure and overcrowding in government hospitals.”
Sarmi added that the concerned authorities should conduct a study to determine the reasons for Omanis travelling abroad for treatment. “Such a study will reveal the number of patients, the type of diseases and why they prefer to travel abroad for treatment.”
He urged the authorities to reduce treatment costs and taxes, and develop a plan to attract foreign investment in the health sector. “This will help provide required modern equipment as well diverse expertise.”
Fatmah al Naamani, a homemaker, noted that although Oman has “undoubtedly one of the best healthcare systems”, many patients have to wait for long periods for appointments for medical procedures. “Last month, I took my son to a health centre for a skin ailment. He was given an appointment in August. But private hospitals are too expensive, so we have no option but to wait,” she said.
According to businessman Nasser al Hosni, most Omanis travel to Asian countries for treatment because of the cost factor. “Oman has many private hospitals and medical professionals, but their prices need to be reviewed.”
Muscat resident Saeed al Habsi said it is “unfortunate” that Omanis travel abroad for treatment when medical procedures, including organ transplantation and open-heart surgery, and cancer treatment are available here for free.