Private Healthcare in Kuwait Leader Al Seef Hospital to Open New Hospital in 2018

Over the past 5 years, Al Seef Hospital increased the number of doctors from 80 to over 130, and added more services, especially in the medical and surgical sub specialization. Due to rising demand, the hospital is planning on opening a larger International Hospital by early 2018.

Interview with Dr Yousif Abou Zahr, CEO of Al Seef Hospital

Dr Yousif Abou Zahr, CEO of Al Seef Hospital

What is your evaluation of the healthcare sector in Kuwait? What is the position of Al Seef Hospital in the market today and who are your competitors?

The health sector has developed during the past few years due to the high demand caused by certain insurance programs that have covered the public sector and public corporates. From 2012 until now, two major groups were added to the private health insurance sector. The first was the Kuwait Oil Company employees and their dependents who are covered by insurance. There are more than 50,000. The second group that was added four months ago was the retirees. They account for 120,000. Both are currently covered by the private health insurance programs and they have access to the private sector, which has increased the demand for private sector services. Now, we can see how the service is shifting from the public sector to the private health sector. This has stimulated growth in the private sector. Most hospitals are expanding their services and capacity so they can accommodate the additional numbers. The expectation is that other groups will also be added to the private health sector. This is the trend in the government in order to relieve the load from public hospitals and give the opportunity to some groups in the public sector to use the private sector.  

What is the percentage of people coming from the GCC area to receive treatment as medical tourists in Kuwait?

Medical tourism has been one of the main subjects during the past few years because of the trend of having more patients coming from the GCC countries to Kuwait to use the services available, mostly in the private sector. Most of the demand was for bariatric surgery and plastic surgery, because Kuwait is famous for its bariatric surgeons and its plastic surgeons. Many patients are coming from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Emirates to benefit from the services that are available in the private sector in Kuwait. Al Seef Hospital has also witnessed an increase in patients coming from those areas and being treated in the hospital. The satisfaction rate was very high.

What have been the main changes in the hospital itself?

The hospital has been through a development program aimed at its services and its capacity. For example, our radiology department is nowadays equipped with an MRI 1.5T, a CT scan at 320 slices per minute, and all the other radiology services required, including digital x-ray, mammogram, fluoroscopy, ultrasound, and bone mass density.

We have increased the number of doctors from the previous five years from 80 to over 130. We added more services, especially in the medical sub specialization and surgical sub specialization. The demand on the services was quite high and we added more clinics. Currently, we are operating the hospital at maximum capacity. On average, we have an almost 80 percent occupancy rate. The clinics are crowded with patients and we have waiting lists for some clinics for weeks. We are trying to solve this congestion through opening more services and more facilities so that we can provide service without delays.

Are you planning to expand or to build additional facilities?

The existing building is 19 stories and has one basement. We cannot expand more within the existing facility. We are opening a new hospital called International Hospital about five kilometers away from this hospital. Al Seef Hospital has 120 beds. The new International Hospital will have around 160 beds. Currently, we are in the recruitment and equipping stage. We are planning to open in the first quarter of 2018. This new hospital will take much of the load from Al Seef and it will also attract new patients. It will specialize in different services and different facilities that can be provided to the patients.

How will you create awareness for the new hospital?

We are preparing for a big announcement. We will start the campaign a few months before the opening. Some delays might happen because of licensing issues and some regulations may still need to be implemented. When we know the exact time, we will start our advertising and launching campaign.

Are you involved with international cooperation? Do you have any agreements with external institutions here in Kuwait or regionally?

We have affiliations with major hospitals and groups in the US and Europe. We have visiting doctors and professionals coming from these international institutes to visit Al Seef for complicated and difficult operations when needed. Of course, we have their support when it comes to training, transfer of knowledge, as well as support in the visiting doctors program. We have visiting doctors coming from London Bridge Hospital for spinal surgery, an affiliation with the Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and an affiliation with hospitals in Germany for specific services.

Apart from the opening of International Hospital, what are other items on your strategy for 2017 and 2018? Will you open any specific departments?

The main objective in 2017 is to expand the utilization of the operating theaters and the diagnostics services by having them working longer hours and weekends, by staffing them, and by equipping them with the latest technology. Additional doctors and services will be needed in different departments to meet demand. We are planning to have more sub specializations covered in internal medicine and surgery. For example, we will add nephrology services, more neurologists, and more endocrinologists because of the demand for these services. Retirees are now covered by the private health insurance and they are using the hospitals. Most of the diseases they have are medicine discipline related, including diabetes, hypertension, kidney problems, and gastrointestinal problems. We are focusing more on such services. For example, in gastroenterology and neurology, we will develop a full unit and provide comprehensive services. We have also added allergy, immunology, rheumatology, hematology, and nephrology services. We are targeting the services where there is a demand and we have a gap. In surgery, we have most of the surgery subspecialties needed, but we are adding more surgeons to meet the demand that is required. Within the area of physical medicine and orthopedics, most of the people covered within the insurance policy have joint problems and back problems and they need orthopedic services and spinal surgery, as well as rehabilitation like physiotherapy and physical medicine support.  

What is your vision for Al Seef Hospital in the medium term of two to three years?

Currently, the hospital is among the leading hospitals in the private sector. We are competing with the major hospitals and we are providing high quality services in a very efficient manner. In the coming few years, if the law and regulation permits, we see ourselves going into more extensive tertiary services, such as cardiology, spinal surgery, complex surgery, and neuro-surgery. In the near future, we are planning to go into robotics surgery, which has become more common in famous hospitals and developed countries.


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