What are the Ministry of Health's (MOH) primary health concerns and resulting priorities?
During the past two to three decades, the Sultanate of Oman has witnessed, as other parts of the world, an epidemiological transition to non-communicable diseases and other morbidity-related unhealthy life-style behaviors. Most communicable diseases have declined to endemic levels, while non-communicable diseases and other conditions related to changes in life-style behaviors are on the rise. For example, in 2017, approximately 40% of inpatients were treated for non-communicable diseases, while the communicable diseases patients represented only 17.2%. This transition resulted in the predominance cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and chronic respiratory and renal diseases. These require advanced and expensive technologies and medicines for diagnosis and treatment, draining the health system budget. They are the main concern, at least for the near future, together with sustaining health gains especially in controlling communicable diseases.
How does MOH's most recent health plan address these concerns?
The epidemiologic and demographic transition described, together with the people's expectations and worldwide advances in technology, have necessitated revising the health system. The aim is to strengthen the health system to face future changes, which is a challenge, as predicting the future of healthcare delivery can be fraught with uncertainty and risk, especially with the number of determinants that affect healthcare, whether demographic, political, economic, social, technological, environmental, or legal. With that in mind, the MOH developed its long-term vision Health Vision 2050. The ninth Five-Year Health Development Plan (2016-2020) is the first out of seven health development plans to adopt and implement visions and strategic actions of the Health Vision 2050. Its development, implementation, and follow-up have been institutionalized, such that each Directorate General with its directorates and departments bear the full responsibility for achieving their objectives. These objectives include sustaining and further developing achievements in primary health care and equipping it with the means to screen for early detection of non-communicable diseases, and care for the elderly. The ninth plan also targets further developing specialized and tertiary healthcare to ensure the availability of highly specialized and well-trained health personnel. This was done through re-visiting the health profession's education strategies and adopting them according to future needs and expected future technological advancements. A national committee for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases was developed and the committee has inaugurated its national plan to face the challenges from non-communicable diseases.
What role should the private sector play when operating alongside public hospitals?
The private health sector has been slowly growing in Oman. It provides all types of different levels of curative medical services through clinics, centers, polyclinics, and hospitals. Private health establishments include 1,215 clinics and 17 hospitals with 725 hospital beds as of YE2017. These are run by a total of 12,366 health workers, of which 2,340 are doctors (50% specialists), 982 dentists, 1,795 pharmacists, 3,799 nurses, and the remaining are other paramedical staff and administrators. In addition to the existing specialists, a number of specialist consultants visit the Sultanate through private centers, polyclinics, and hospitals to provide consultations and highly specialized treatments that have significantly reduced the number of patients seeking medical treatment abroad.
How does the ministry work with WHO and other international organizations to push for global initiatives?
We work effectively with WHO to address a number of priorities related to improving Oman's health sector. For example, we are working together to develop a country cooperation strategy (CCS) that reflects a medium-term vision of WHO for technical cooperation with Oman. It aims to allow WHO to provide technical support to the health system in Oman in a coherent manner to address its own priorities and challenges and implement global initiatives. Similarly, the partnership with UNICEF in health development is being implemented through successive Country Program Action plans. This partnership has played a vital role in achieving commendable health outcomes especially in the health of children and women in priority areas.