New rules for free treatment

Reem Leila , Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

What do new regulations governing treatment in public hospitals mean for patients, asks Reem Leila

New rules for free treatment

 

The Ministry of Health and Population has started enforcing a list of regulations governing public health facilities affiliated with local administration. These include hospitals, therapeutic service centres, healthcare units and independent health offices.

The regulations, according to ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, will help alleviate the financial burden on patients, especially those who cannot afford to pay, by providing treatment at the government’s expense, supporting free treatment, and eliminating waiting lists for urgent surgeries.

The regulations add new categories of patients to those eligible for free medical treatment, Ahmed Saafan, head of the therapeutic medicine sector at the ministry, said. These include beneficiaries of Takaful and Karama cash support programmes, people with special needs, and families of members of the Armed Forces and police killed or wounded.

Any public hospital, according to Saafan, offers a 30 per cent discount for patients who cannot afford medical treatment and are not among the categories listed.

Some regulations aim at generating revenues from facilities to improve the services offered.

According to the new list of regulations, patients attending outpatient clinics would be charged a LE10 consultation fee at public hospitals and LE5 at health units instead of LE1. The fee may increase up to five times the amount.  

Also, people visiting patients in public health facilities will pay LE5 each. The fee can be raised gradually to LE25.

Hatem Tahoun, general manager of Menouf General Hospital, noted that revenues resulting from increasing fees would be allocated to increasing the salaries of health sector staff in addition to improving the health system in general.

Tahoun downplayed the magnitude of the increase included in the new regulations, stating that many hospitals affiliated with the Health Ministry had raised ticket prices to LE10 long ago and were charging a “trivial” fee for conducting tests, radiology, and other services before the new list of regulations was issued.

“The increase in fees is reasonable. This is the least amount that could be collected from patients in return for the services provided to them,” he added.

Khairia Ebeid, a physician who works at a public hospital, believes that increasing consultation fees at outpatient clinics in public hospitals to LE10 is the least worrisome factor about the new regulations.

“The cost of consultations represents only a small percentage of the costs of tests and other examinations that citizens will have to pay after the implementation of the new regulations, which include an increase in the prices of all healthcare services provided by government hospitals,” Ebeid said.

Saafan denied reports claiming that free treatment beds in public hospitals were reduced from 60 per cent to 25 per cent in the latest regulations. “It has always been 25 per cent; it was never 60 per cent.”

Egypt has 662 public hospitals in addition to 5,314 health units. “The number of beds in public hospitals is more than 90,000 serving around 70,000 patients a year. This is in addition to around two million patients who received medical treatment at the government’s expense last year,” said Saafan.

Throughout the past few months, according to Saafan, 3,300 patients have been treated at the government’s expense. The timeframe for taking decisions on treatment covered by the government does not exceed one week, and in critical cases, not more than 24 hours,” he added.

“The new list of regulations has been issued to pave the way for the enforcement of the new health insurance system which has been fully applied in Port Said, Suez, Luxor, and Aswan,” Ministry of Health and Population Spokesman Abdel-Ghaffar said.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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