As Qatar’s population grows, some residents have been finding it more difficult to access specialty care at public hospitals.
Sana, an 29-year-old expat who has lived in Qatar for three years, has been leading a fertility support group here that contains more than 40 other women. She and at least half a dozen other residents have recently contacted Doha News to complain about canceled appointments at Women’s Hospital regarding infertility treatments.
They say that they’ve been told priority is now being given to Qataris with fertility issues. Sana explains the situation here, and implores decision-makers to reconsider the changes:
Becoming a parent is a major milestone in one’s life. But while having a child may be easier for some, others have to go through various struggles to achieve it.
Despite a population of 2.2 million people, Qatar has only has a handful of clinics that offer in-vitro fertilization treatments (better known as IVF). Most of these clinics are private, and cost thousands of riyals for stimulation and follicle monitoring – after which the patient is sent overseas for the egg collection and embryo transfer.
So when the only hospital in Doha equipped to deal with infertility puts a ban on those that come to receive treatment, it’s a major blow.
This summer, Women’s Hospital – Assisted Conception Unit began contacting people with appointments scheduled for after Ramadan and canceling them, to the shock and dismay of many.
According to the receptionists who made the calls, no appointments are being given to expats until further notice, as the clinic works to give preference to Qataris who are seeking IVF treatment.
However, Hamad Medical Corp. has not confirmed or denied that any changes have been made. In a statement sent to Doha News, HMC said:
“As demand grows, we continue to accommodate referrals in the IVF clinic for patients of all nationalities. For questions about existing referrals, patients may contact 4439 3020 or 4439 6159. For new referrals to WH, patients should see their primary healthcare physician.”
Still, the canceled appointments have ruffled a lot of feathers. One of my friends has been waiting since March for her appointment in September. When it was canceled in July, she said:
“Shock was the first emotion that went through my whole body; I wanted to literally yell and scream at her but didn’t even know what to say, it wasn’t her (the receptionist’s) fault.”
She was told to seek help at Doha Clinic of Al Emadi Hospital, or call back every month after September to check the status and see whether they were openings at Women’s Hospital for expats to book an appointment.
This is the exact story of many women who once sat in the assisted conception unit for hours at a time just waiting to see the doctor. Some of them had been saving each and every penny for months to be able to bear the costs of IVF and the associated medication.
Specialists within the hospital have addressed the issue by writing letters of disapproval about this preferential treatment, and made the management aware of their unfairness.
However, no action has been taken in this regard. The point of even allowing those expats who had no children to at least be able to resume treatment was proposed, but in vain.
What really shakes my core is the fact that this change is irrational and a complete act of racism in all its glory, but no one seems to even bat an eyelid.
No one in the Hamad Hospital management seems to think this decision is wrong. Yes, the hospital itself is very busy, but how can you give preference to someone based on his or her passport color?
If Qataris living in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or any other country were de-prioritized, wouldn’t this be considered a denial of basic human rights?
To many of us, the change at the clinic is show of disregard for the expat community living in Qatar. There are lots of couples that have been trying to have children for years without any luck and are relying on HMC as a last resort.
How are you even possibly think of moving ahead as a country ready to host the FIFA World Cup 2022 when you can’t even provide proper facilities for the expats that reside here?
Yes, I agree this is the Qataris’ country, and I’m proud to be able to live here and support its infrastructure. But society will have trouble moving forward if these boundaries and these issues aren’t dealt with.
We pay for each and every treatment and medication needed. Yet again, we are the ones who have to deal with being let down by a failing system. Expanding parking lots, fixing the reception area by adding a backsplash and waterfall and upgrading the cafeteria are not going to help, because there are still untreated patients who need to be seen.
Racism…hmm…then replace all expat doctors to local qatari doctors
But then where will all the other expat drs go work? I’m sure if their skill demanded a higher pay they wouldn’t be in Qatar to begin with
Good point. Hope people understand the same way as you do. In short all are equal
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other places too. Do you think all those contacted from Qatar accept? NO! At least not the Europeans and many other Westeners. Know plenty of stories of people not accepting and finding better things.
That’s exactly my point… The expat drs are here because they’re likely unable to get something better in AD, Dubai or elsewhere.. Otherwise they would have left already
I had my job! But I followed my husband who was contacted back home because they could not find people with his profile….so partly I agree with you, but not all are in the situations they could find a job. My husband was offered a better job considering his experience and a better pay; he could not refuse. It makes a difference!!
The really good ones don’t generally stay. They few that stay generally do so for personal reasons.
Otherwise Qataris would not need to flock to the UK, US, etc. for medical treatment.
I was shocked when I heard few months ago that some government medical centres are now exclusively reserved to Qataris, but I don’t remember seeing any backlash or criticism towards this decision. Why would I then be shocked by this IVF issue? I am afraid this is a growing trend and I will not be surprised if tomorrow many other basic services are restricted or completely denied to expats. Ultimately, for top Qatari officials, it is the easiest way to please their people and hide their failure to properly manage their departments/institutions/ministries.
hi.. they started giving appointment for expats please check with hamad hospital
Oh playing the race card……
“What really shakes my core is the fact that this change is irrational and a complete act of racism in all its glory, but no one seems to even bat an eyelid.”
It seems the government are prioritising services for their citizens as all countries do for their citizens. Calling it racist is very low, what do you expect them to do? Send Qataris overseas and possibly to your country of origin for treatment due to lack of facilities in Qatar?
I don’t think the NHS in the UK gives priority to British nationals over residents of other nationalities. And most importantly, if there is a shortage in facilities/doctors, you do your best to fix the shortage. In the meantime, you try to manage everyone and treat them equally even if this means more delays for everyone.
Your point might be valid in things like airport queues, but access to healthcare must be the same for everyone.
Many different point here. Looking at the NHS website it states they will only fund IVF treatment for British nationals under certain criteria, not for foreigners. However they say you have the option of going private and paying of it. There is the second point, the UK is a developed country with an extensive private healthcare network so if you have the money anyone can avail the treatment. However Qatar’s population has exploded in just 10 years and needs to build a more robust healthcare system but that takes time and IVF is not a necessity.
Your last point, healthcare must be the same for everyone. I would agree in necessary health care services for diseases and conditions that threaten life. This is available in Qatar for everyone. IVF is not an emergency situation and is an elected treatment and specialists are in short demand currently it seems. Therefore the government is prioritising its citizens.
they started taking apt now for expats in hamad hospital
The difference, too, is that long-term residents of the UK can become citizens, so comparing UK and Qatar citizenship is like comparing apples and oranges. If the UK announced only citizens whose grandparents were citizens could have certain benefits, there would be outrage and cries of racism through the world.
they started taking apt now for expats
Seriously ? I have one question what does IVF treatment cost at Hamad Medical versus how much it costs in private clinics in and out of Doha?
People aren’t paying the price for IVF treatment. They’re paying a small fraction of the very expansive procedure. The govt of Qatar subsidizes the remaining. And when their is limited availability priority goes to it’s citizens…
Racism would be if all Arabs were prioritized.. Picking a color of passport would be saying all EU holders get priority..
Govt is simply prioritizing it’s citizens for a very special, expansive and non life threatening condition …
When there’s enough demand for it and private medical insurance companies pay for it… Private clinics will expand into IVF treatment
Spot on. Someone else is footing the bill here. So getting upset when the service is limited to the people that pay into the system at a public facility is really more about having to pay full costs rather than someone else paying it for you (getting a free lunch).
Cause increasing such facilities doesn’t happen over night… Also subsidizing such a medical treatment by the govt to non citizens is not the case anywhere else in the world..
As I mentioned above if individuals pay for the full treatment at full cost or private insurance companies pick the tab then private hospitals and clinics in Doha will expand into IVF treatment
Funny how the ones commenting might not even have a fraction of an idea of what goes through a couples mind when they go through the ordeal of IVF. My wife and I have. We’ve been through it and are one of those whose appointments got canceled.
I have to agree with what has been written and I do feel that it has a lot to do with race and inequality.
As far as cost goes, I agree its a fraction of what other clinics charge but its comparable to what is being charged overseas if you are a resident of a country.
again….this country has money but no style. The Doha NO-STYLE. It is racist. It is out of this world. Things like this show how backward a country is, although sitting on a fortune……typical of the nouveau riche
R u drunk posting?
never been drunk in my life and I don’t understand this way of labeling people drunk when you don’t agree…are you on cocaine? P$%^ Off
imagine this was done to all the Qataries getting serious treatment in Germany: all the Doitch first, nein, nein Qataris!!!
Well it should happen.. If there was a shortage of hospital beds or a certain treatment than yes priority should go to Germans… Also unlike the non-Qatari IVF patients at Hamad.. Qatari do not pay for treatment in Germany at a subsidized price.. They pay a very hefty sum..
for highly qualified treatment they don’t get here! Otherwise they would stay here!
Well first off it isn’t racist what they are doing. Racist means to discriminate against a person’s race. The word is ‘nationalism’ because they are discriminating against people based on nationality.
Secondly if the IVF treatment expats were receiving had to be paid in full price then I would understand them being so angry(hmc should give these people whatever money spent so far back to them). But the price HMC was charging is only a fraction of what IVF really cost. Expats don’t pay taxes so the government was picking up that tab. So (unfortunately) they are well within their right to prioritize their own people.
Lastly this may be a blessing in disguise. HMC doesn’t have a good track record and I know quite a few people who had IVF done there who had horrible experiences. You’re better off going to your home country where doctors know what their doing so your pregnancy chances can be maximized.
Very well said.
I’m OK with some of your points, but my biggest problem is that I feel for the financial and emotional cost incurred. It’s true that patients were getting reduced cost treatments, but that doesn’t mean they were free treatments. They did pay something, and a discount still may be quite expensive for some individuals (remember, some residents of Qatar can’t even afford soap and other basic necessities). Also, regardless of the financial cost, IVF is a long and emotional process.
I’m OK with them not taking new patients, but to cut off existing patients that are in the middle of a months/years long process without reimbursing them is cold and heartless, and, I agree, racist. Some couples save their money for years to begin the IVF process. What a waste.
I said in my comment above that HMC should give the couples back the money they spent.
Oops, apologies. You’re right, and I agree with you!
Expats not paying taxes and have the nerve to call a government racist because they prioritize their citizens for sensitive, limited, and costly operations? I think Sana, the writer of this article, should be ashamed of herself for being a blood sucking leech!
If you paid taxes then maybe, just maybe, you could have a case to argue. But no ma’am you are not entitled to subsidized healthcare in someone else’s country!
Yes there is a lot wrong in this country, but with this decision they were spot on!
No one pays income taxes in Qatar.
If Qatar introduced income taxes on expats to pay for such services, the Qatari companies and organizations would have to offset those by paying higher salaries and benefits packages. Therefore, one can argue, that salaries are somewhat artificially low precisely because people don’t pay taxes.
Regardless whether you think income is low in Qatar the fact is that you, as an expat or a citizen, do not contribute to the public purse whatsoever. Hence, no one can claim entitlement to public healthcare.
If a resident of Canada lets say pays an income tax and doesn’t find paved roads in his neighborhood, water, or electricity for his house or is denied public healthcare then yes, this person is entitled to complain.
If Qatar had income tax, employers would have to pay higher wages. As most employers are government-related entities, they leave out the middleman by not charging taxes. Moreover, by providing healthcare, the government effectively subsidizes private and public employers by not making them pay higher wages.
So, yes, I do contribute to the public purse by accepting a wage that is artificially lowered by the absence of an income tax. The public pays me less and provided me, and, in return, I don’t pay taxes.
You know, I’m not a tad-bit ashamed because my husband and I work our literal behind off for every single penny earned.
Yes, the article is coming from MY point of view. My story. My inability to have kids and having to rely on the system to help me. So please get off that high-horse, don’t get personal, and learn some manners.
If you are a US citizen, you pay taxes to the US gov’t like I do, so where’s this ‘relief’ your waving in my face? Also, this isn’t about the MONEY. This is about the BASIC right I have as a HUMAN to be able to undergo treatment here at the ONLY clinic that offers enough facilities to not have to go overseas for 3 weeks. Trust me my husband earns enough that I can up and leave right now and go overseas, have an IVF process and come back. The only reason why I wrote this article was that there are people here, that DON’T have those luxuries, they don’t make that much money. My stand is for them.
NOT for those that have NO idea about the taxing process this is mentally, physically and emotionally or for those that think that IVF is not healthcare. Live in my shoes for a day, or for the past 6 years, lose 3 babies, and then talk to me about being a blood-sucking leech!
Sana, thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment. Your reply was an emotional one (understandable) which clouded your thoughts and resulted in incohesive and irrelevant points.
I don’t understand how working your “literal behind” off is related to anything I said. If anything, it just shows the same false sense of entitlement you think you have.
Relying on a third party to bear children must be a very unpleasant experience which I don’t claim I know of because I don’t. But put yourself in a Qatari woman’s shoes. If you feel betrayed by not being able to access healthcare here, what do you think she would feel like not being able to get an appointment in HER country for a service provided by HER government (bear in mind that she also is most likely able to afford overseas treatment).
Your explanation of paying taxes for the country of which you hold residency from is completely false. You are using publicly provided services in Qatar like roads and security for free so if anybody is entitled to your taxes its the Qatari government. You can argue that the US also provides you with services abroad but that is an entirely different topic which I won’t delve into right now.
Sana, the universe appreciates your Dark Knight efforts of trying to bring justice to Qatar. But in reality, anybody that can’t afford IVF here would probably go back to their home country and do it there at public hospitals. However, if their home countries don’t have such services, I don’t think it is Qatar’s responsibility to take the load and blame.
You are blessed at being an American, the US probably would be a much better place to undergo such treatment, and since you can afford it, why don’t you and the many other expat women like you who can afford IVF overseas “up and leave” and leave that appointment to women that truly don’t have your luxuries. Then maybe the system here would be less crowded and the poor women you are fighting for get a fighting chance. Hypocrisy.
I haven’t had to undergo the stress of IVF neither has anyone I closely know so I don’t possibly know what you are going through. But what I do know is that it is unethical to call an entire country racist for prioritizing its citizens over residents that not only are raking in thousands of dollars each month, but are also not paying for public services.
Go to the US and have your operation and spare the Qatari healthcare system a case. I pray for you on behalf of me and the entire Doha News community good luck, good health, and lots of children.
Ok. let me just get one thing clear here..
Qatari women that use Hamad, ALWAYS get preference of treatment because they are nationals. Have been experiencing that for the past 3 years that I have lived here. Ahli, Hamad, DohaClinic, AlEmadi… and I don’t mind that. The only thing that doesn’t sit well with me is the fact that I was booted off a system just because I’m not a Qatari passport holder. I had a valid appointment in the system and I’ve been waiting since April 2014 for it.
Yes, it’s an emotional rollercoaster having to go through the ups and downs of the system we live in. However I don’t expect you, or anyone who has NO remote idea of what it feels like to sit there and justify what it is that needs to be done. You yourself have no idea, so why are you so gung-ho on trying to make it seem like you do.
Also, I never said don’t prioritize Qatari’s, my whole article is based on the fact that they shouldn’t exclude us from the system, especially women who have no kids, that have been in their appointment system for years, have gone through failed IVF’s time and time again. Also, once again thank you for telling me that I should go ahead and leave this country to pay for what I need to do to give a chance to those trying to get appointments… haha!
Have you ever been to Hamad? It took me 7 months to see the doctor in an outpatient clinic, the day of my appointment I found out the doctor was on vacation. I then saw another doctor, who gave approval for me to go and get another appointment for the IVF clinic and that appointment was 7 months later. so 1.5 years almost just running through doctors. One person leaving the system to go abroad is not the answer to anything. I’ve personally spoken to IVF specialists in Hamad, they have had funds approved for expansions yet nothing has been done.
Trust me 60% of couples residing here probably already go abroad for treatments just to save themselves the headache of having to sit in the clinic from 7 am to 11am just to get a prescription from the doctor and be on their way. Yes, 4 hours just to get an ultrasound analysed and a set of medicines dispensed.
I might belong to North America, but I live here now. I pay for the treatment, the same amount I pay there I pay here, so I don’t get why I can’t get services that I or my friends that are in the same boat need. You can’t just exclude a WHOLE community from medical services, its unethical to say the least. Also, when the doctors at the same hospital are speaking up because its not right, it just goes to show that yes, something isn’t adding up here.
I’m not trying to be a Dark Knight trying to get justice, I’m just trying to raise awareness. That’s the best that I can do…
This story is disappointing, to say the least.
I agree with the comments that every country does, and probably should, preference its own citizens. HOWEVER, the comparisons to EU countries like Germany and the UK are ridiculous (like comparing apples and oranges). This is because citizenship in Qatar is amongst the most restrictive in the world. Restricting services to citizens in the UK means 90 plus percent of the population versus 10 percent in Qatar. In the UK, a 10-year resident without a British passport is fairly rare, whereas the vast majority of 10-year or more residents in Qatar are not citizens.
If the Qatar health system restricted it to keep out medical tourists (by say requiring residency of 10 years or more) then fair enough, but restricting it to citizens only (who are by definition a group selected almost entirely by genealogical decent) is racist by the very definition of the word.
And, yes, IVF is an elective medical procedure. But anyone who has undergone it will tell you that it was important as any other medical procedure they ever had. After all, procreation is a biological imperative just as much as avoidance of injury or death.
I don’t want to offend anyone but just to add to the discussion a larger context that there is a traditional ethicist view that IVF itself is unethical. For some it’s because many fertilized eggs are later discarded (a traditional deontological objection to treating the creation of life in a merely instrument fashion), and a proportionalist argument that societies’ resources are diverted from caring for the orphans and others who have no parents to the very expensive process of producing new children in vitro. For every child created 10+ potential children are discarded and 10+ existing children might have been taken care of financially or even received a new parent. All expenditures of money in a society involve trade-offs and these are ultimately painful moral questions. Of course there is the very human desire to have a child with the one you love and no one can deny the power of this human drive. But it does come at a cost – don’t kid yourself. And while I agree that if it is offered making distinctions among recipients based on national background is problematic, one could defend the practice as marginally acceptable in a context of limited resources because it is not a life and death issue for the parents. Expatriates who truly value this life choice could choose to stay in their own country of origin. I think the truly morally questionable case would be for those lifetime residents of Qatar who are not granted citizenship and don’t have another real choice of where to go. If they are also denied then that seems quite unfair.
hi.. they started giving appointment for expats please check
There are some flawed views in the article. This is not racism or nationalism. Here, like many other places in the world, there is a tiered system of medical care that includes subsidized, state provided healthcare. Generally speaking, the services in the UK, US, Europe, Japan, are not FREE they are supplemented by a tax scheme to pay for the costs. Expats here simply do not pay taxes. So why would one expect to get benefits from the system? Private insurance in many countries also does not cover IVF. I can sympathize with the lack of proper facilities, but it seems that the real arguments in the article and comments are more about having to use the limited private facilities and pay the full cost of the care. I could understand this more if it was a life-saving treatment, but this is an elective procedure, and one that is costly to maintain. Should the state of Qatar hire 10, 20, 30 more specialists in the this field? Who pays for this? It is not nationalistic or racist to have a State funded and operated hospital that limits specialist non-life saving procedures to non-citizens (tax payers). The US provides a good example of this. The state provided MEDICAID system, which is essentially state subsidized insurance for poor, needy, and yes even non-US citizens, does not cover the procedure at all. So are they racists? Nationalists? No, its just expensive and the costs should not be born by the citizens that pay into the system. Private insurance is offered in the US, just as it is in the UK. This can open up different funding schemes, but again, there is no such thing as a free lunch, someone has to bear the costs. So many employer provided private plans also do not cover the procedure. Even then its complicated as only 15 of the 50 US state (http://kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/infertility-coverage/) are mandated to cover the procedure. So, any argument that states this is a policy of racism or discrimination leaves out the simple financial component of it entirely, that being who is paying the costs. Understandably, doctors have an oath to live up to and also do not want to discriminate in the provision of health services, even specialized ones. It seems that if there is a market for this in the private space, then maybe those doctors could work with the private medical system to establish an alternative.
All very true. Three points to add:
1) States that do mandate its provision do so on the interpretation of infertility as a disability (akin to someone who is paralyzed or has some sort of limiting genetic disorder).
2) The citizen comparisons are only fair if two countries have similar understandings of citizenship. In the US, longer-term legal residents have a pathway to citizenship. To say the US preferences its citizens is to say it preferences the vast majority of is resident population; to say Qatar does the same means preferences for a fraction of its long-term residential population. All fine and legal for Qatar to do, but to say that it is the same as in other countries is inaccurate.
3) The State of Qatar effectively provides a backdoor subsidy to employers by providing employees health insurance. This allows companies and agencies to play a lower wages, and thus earn a greater profit. By this perspective, employees do pay into the system (by taking lower wages). Health coverage is not provided as a gift. Again, all very fine, fair and legal. But let’s be honest about what it is.
The real fact behind this drastic move is that, IVF unit is not having enough staff to handle the cases. No. of Cases seemed to shoot up slowly and they managed to handle it for a while, and eventually started giving up. Now moved to such prioritising decision. However, jumping onto such a biased decision is not very convincing though.
Maybe, we expats, out there waiting for their turns, might have to bare for a while until they recruit enough embryologists and get the lab in good running condition. This should take a while.
hi.. they started giving appointment for expats please check with them
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Just heard that will re-open the appointment for the non-qataris in the coming 2 months.
Anybody heard anything so far?
yes, I always call the IVF section and yet they are very accommodating… the decision is not on their hands… they told me to call time to time.. maybe by march it will be open.. i feel so sad… this is just the way for me to have a child… even we don’t have enough money i make sure that i save it for my IVF.. i hope and pray that the government will allow us by doing it in their hospital… :'(
lily cuenco pama
hi, thanks for the info..
keep us posted if you know anything
Yeah even today I call them, but the answer is ” no, not yet open, call next month”. Why these people are so cruel as this. All married women’s wish is to become a mother. Its a blessing, so why non Qatari/ expatriate women can’t have it?
hi, they started giving appointment to expats check pls
just heard that they re-open appointment for the expats for IVF unit.. pls check
hi.. they started giving appointment for expats please check overthere