The healthcare system in Qatar is one of the best and fastest-growing in the Gulf region. This guide provides all you need to know including what kind of healthcare system is in place, health insurance, and healthcare costs.
The guide includes the following information:
- Overview of healthcare in Qatar
- Cost of healthcare in Qatar
- Health insurance in Qatar
- How to register for healthcare in Qatar as an expat
- Private healthcare in Qatar
- Doctors and specialists in Qatar
- Women’s healthcare in Qatar
- Children’s healthcare in Qatar
- Dentists in Qatar
- Hospitals in Qatar
- Health centers and clinics in Qatar
- Pharmacies in Qatar
- Mental healthcare in Qatar
- Other forms of healthcare in Qatar
- What to do in an emergency
- Useful resources
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COVID-19 in Qatar
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. Many expats find themselves separated from family and loved ones in their home countries. As a foreigner, it is also sometimes difficult to find critical information regarding coronavirus infection rates, local measures and restrictions, and now, thankfully, vaccinations.
For general Qatari coronavirus health information in English, including vaccination schedules and the latest government restrictions, visit the Ministry of Health’s official COVID-19 website.
Overview of healthcare in Qatar
The healthcare system in Qatar
Qatar has a highly developing healthcare system that has been ranked in the world’s top five in terms of quality of care. The system consists of free or subsidized public healthcare, and expats living and working there can apply to access this or choose to be treated privately.
Healthcare in Qatar is overseen by the Ministry of Public Health. Services are provided through two organizations:
- The Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), which runs 27 regional centers across the country.
- The Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), a non-profit organization that runs facilities including 12 public hospitals, community clinics, and the national ambulance service
If you are signed up for public healthcare in Qatar, you can register with a GP and access services including dental care, antenatal care, vaccinations, and emergency treatment. All healthcare providers in Qatar, public and private, have to be registered with the country’s Council for Healthcare Practitioners.
Who can access healthcare in Qatar?
All residents with a valid ID and residence permit, including expats, can access public healthcare in Qatar. You will need to apply for a health card. This can be done at the primary healthcare centers or online. Those without a health card, along with tourists and temporary visitors, will need to take out private health insurance or pay for private treatment.
Cost of healthcare in Qatar
Qatar is a big spender on healthcare, with expenditure reaching just over $3 billion per annum (2.2% of annual GDP) according to 2014 figures. This makes it one of the biggest healthcare spenders per capita in the Middle East.
The government of Qatar announced plans to make public healthcare universal in 2012, in line with its National Health Strategy 2011-16. Public healthcare funding comes from government subsidies. The government scrapped a move to compulsory health insurance for Qatari nationals in 2015. However, there are plans for a replacement insurance scheme which may also include expat residents.
Expats can access state healthcare services at a subsidized rate by purchasing the HMC health card, which currently costs QR100 for foreign residents (around $27). Many expat residents choose to take out private health insurance to access private services.
Health insurance in Qatar
There is currently no compulsory health insurance scheme in Qatar. The country introduced a scheme in 2013 for Qatari citizens, with plans to extend it to foreign residents, but this was dropped in late 2015 due to it becoming too expensive. There have been discussions on a replacement scheme involving private insurers, but there are no firm details on this yet.
Many expat residents in Qatar, as well as around 10% of the local population, have private health insurance. This means they can use private healthcare facilities as well as covering the costs not met through the state-subsidized scheme. These policies are available from private insurance companies in Qatar.
Private health insurance in Qatar is often offered through employers. If not, there are a number of providers with whom residents can make individual arrangements. The following health insurance providers offer expat-friendly policies:
How to register for healthcare in Qatar as an expat
Expat residents in Qatar can register for public healthcare by applying for the health card. You can do this in person at any of the Primary Health Care Centers or online via Hukoomi. The card costs QR100 for expat residents (QR50 for Qatari nationals). To apply for a card, you will need to provide:
- passport/valid ID
- valid residence permit
- passport-size photographs
- proof of address (e.g., a recent utility bill)
- vaccination card (children only)
- ID of your sponsor (domestic staff only)
You will either receive your card immediately or will need to return to collect it in a few days.
Most employers of expat staff offer private health insurance as part of their employment package. You should check with your employer if you want private coverage. If this is not offered, or you want additional coverage for you or family members, you can shop around for private health insurance.
Private healthcare in Qatar
Private healthcare in Qatar has grown in recent years. This is because of the growth in population and an increase in the number of expats who have relocated to the country; many of whom have private insurance coverage. In addition to those choosing private provision, any resident or visitor without a card will have to use private healthcare in Qatar.
The biggest problem with private care is that it’s more expensive. However, you can usually get quicker treatment, access more specialized services, and be more likely to see English-speaking healthcare professionals; some of whom are expats themselves.
Private facilities include hospitals (over 50% are private) and clinics. The biggest hospitals are:
- Al Alhi Hospital
- Doha Clinic
- Al Emadi Hospital
- American Hospital
Costs can vary significantly depending on your individual provider. To lower fees, you can take out private health insurance with an international provider.
Doctors and specialists in Qatar
Doctors and specialists work in both state and private sectors in Qatar. There are medical specialists of all kinds, with the private sector, in particular, attracting expat health professionals with generous salaries.
Altogether, there are 2.5 doctors per 1,000 inhabitants in Qatar. Public GPs work mainly in primary health care centers and clinics, with private GPs more likely to have their own private practice. If you use public healthcare, you will need a GP referral to see a specialist. You can usually make an appointment with a private specialist without a referral.
You can find a doctor in Qatar through the Council for Healthcare Practitioners website, your country’s embassy, or your health insurer. For more information, read our guides to Doctors in Qatar and Specialists in Qatar.
Women’s healthcare in Qatar
Qatar has state-of-the-art women’s healthcare facilities, which makes it a good place in the Middle East to give birth. You can find quality facilities through both public and private healthcare.
State-provided services include the Women’s Wellness and Research Center in Doha. This is the largest tertiary hospital in the country, with over 2,000 highly trained staff delivering up to 17,000 births a year. Clinical services are available from preconception to childbirth, postnatal care, and beyond. There is also the Women’s Hospital, which offers fertility treatment, and facilities such as the Sidra Hospital which provides world-class healthcare.
Contraception in the form of condoms and birth control pills are freely available. You can buy these from pharmacies. However, although Qatar is more liberal than some of its neighbors in the Gulf, abortion is only permitted in certain circumstances and pregnancy out of wedlock is illegal.
Children’s healthcare in Qatar
Healthy children and young people are the number one objective on the Qatari Ministry of Public Health’s 2018-22 National Health Strategy; with a key focus on dental hygiene, breastfeeding, and physical activity.
Primary Health Care Centers, hospitals, and clinics provide a range of pediatric and children’s healthcare services; while schools administer general health programs. There are also several Paediatric Emergency Centers across the country dealing with serious health issues.
Vaccinations are available for free to children of residents through the National Immunization Program. A total of 12 different vaccines are currently administered. For further information, read our guides to Children’s healthcare and Vaccinations in Qatar.
Dentists in Qatar
You can access good quality dental care in Qatar. Dental treatment is available through some of the public health centers and clinics as well as at the Hamad Dental Center. There are also numerous private dental surgeries that provide a more extensive range of treatments; albeit at a higher cost.
There are various ways to find dentists in Qatar including the Council for Public Health website and national embassies.
Hospitals in Qatar
There are both public and private hospitals within the healthcare system in Qatar. The twelve public facilities, run by Hamad, offer a good standard of care. These include general hospitals (e.g., Hamad General Hospital, Rumailah Hospital) and specialist hospitals (e.g., Heart Hospital).
Private facilities are often favored by foreign residents due to shorter waiting times, range of specialist treatment, and prevalence of English-speaking staff.
Everyone in Qatar including temporary visitors can access emergency treatment, even in public facilities. However, those without the health card won’t benefit from subsidized rates.
Health centers and clinics in Qatar
In addition to public hospitals, HMC runs several other centers and clinics across the country which provide an array of care services. These include the Ambulatory Care Center, the Communicable Disease Center, and the Anaya Specialized Care Center. The PHCC runs the 27 regional Primary Health Care Centers that provide much of the public primary healthcare in Qatar. These are split into three regions – northern, central, and western.
Pharmacies in Qatar
It is possible to find pharmacies in Qatar that are open late into the evening; with some open 24 hours in larger cities such as Doha. Many hospitals also have pharmacy sections.
Pharmacies in Qatar provide prescriptions as well as over-the-counter medicines. If you have a health card, you will be entitled to subsidized prescriptions.
Pharmacies stock an assortment of products, although brands may vary and some common prescription medicines may not be available. Some products such as certain anti-depressant brands are banned and some medication is controlled. Check with your healthcare provider or Qatari embassy ahead of traveling if unsure.
You can find a list of 24-hour pharmacies here.
Mental healthcare in Qatar
As is the case in many countries, mental health service provision in Qatar is not at the same level as that of other healthcare services. There is also still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues.
A 2015 study by the Ministry of Public Health found that 60% of respondents felt that the public had little or no awareness of mental health issues. Another study found that 25% of adults who attended a public health consultation had at least one type of mental health disorder.
Facilities are limited, with fewer outpatient facilities, community residential facilities, and beds in psychiatric hospitals than in other high-income countries. However, improved mental well-being forms part of Qatar’s 2018-22 National Health Strategy.
Primary care services are improving, including the development of mental health support clinics, and there has been a recent growth in private counseling and psychotherapy practices.
Other forms of healthcare available in Qatar
The health authorities in Qatar only recently approved the practice of complementary therapies and alternative medicine such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and homeopathy. You can search for a practitioner of complementary medicine on the Council for Public Health website. The site has also published guidelines for the practice of this treatment. Read our Guide to alternative medicine in Qatar for more details.
What to do in an emergency in Qatar
The emergency service number for ambulance, fire, or police in Qatar is 999. Response times for ambulances are usually quick. HMC runs the ambulance service across the country. There is an emergency helicopter service to deal with incidents in more remote parts.
Anyone in Qatar can receive emergency treatment at either public or private hospitals, however, those without a health card or adequate insurance coverage will have to pay full costs. Heart attack sufferers are usually treated at the Heart Hospital in Doha.