With reporting from Riham Sheble
Amid efforts to ease Qatar’s overstretched healthcare system, newly arrived expats will now be denied a residence permit and deported if kidney disease is detected during their medical screenings, a senior health official has reportedly said.
Ibrahim Al-Shaar, the director of Qatar’s medical commission department, told Al Raya this week that new tests for tuberculosis and hepatitis C will also be added to the check-up process for expats in the “coming time.”
“The medical commission department is the first line of defense for public health in Qatar by preventing the entry of certain diseases,” Al-Shaar was quoted as saying.
By adding kidney function tests, which can be done by screening blood or urine, authorities appear to be moving beyond infectious diseases during thes process for the first time.
Al-Shaar told Al Raya that the tests were being added after officials at Hamad General Hospital told the medical commission – which is primarily tasked with screening new expats – that it’s been seeing an increase in cases of kidney failure and individuals requiring dialysis.
Kidney disease affects about 13 percent of Qatar’s population, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) said last summer. Earlier in the year, HMC officials were quoted as saying that between 250 and 300 patients go on dialysis annually.
Expat medical tests
Currently, expats are screened for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C before obtaining their RP, according to Qatar e-government portal Hukoomi.
The Supreme Council of Health added that newcomers are also screened for syphilis. Individuals who test positive are generally sent home.
Al-Shaar said that if the medical commission has suspicions that a person is carrying one of the diseases, the government department will inform the expat’s sponsor, who must authorize additional testing to obtain conclusive results.
Meanwhile, expats from 10 Asian and African countries, including Egypt, India, Nepal and the Philippines, are required to undergo a medical check in their home country before being screened again in Qatar.
Some employers, including Carnegie Mellon University, among others, also require expat hires to be tested in their home country “to avoid unnecessary travel and employment costs resulting from immigration complications.”
Al-Shaar told Al Raya that some 9,754 – or slightly more than 1 percent – of the 896,275 individuals it tested were deemed to be medically unfit to reside in Qatar.
- 5,904 cases of dormant tuberculosis;
- 261 cases of active tuberculosis;
- 1,480 cases of hepatitis C;
- 1,042 cases of hepatitis B; and
- 243 cases of HIV.
Despite the strict screening of newcomers, expats already living in Qatar who are found to have HIV are not automatically deported.
Blue-collar workers, however, have a much slimmer chance of being allowed to stay.
Some experts say fear of discrimination or deportation may discourage individuals from getting tested.
There were 113 people living with HIV in Qatar in December 2013, according to the most recently public statistics. That year, 18 new cases were diagnosed, up from 15.