DOWN AT THE LAB

Oman 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed al-Saidi, Minister of Health, on opportunities in healthcare and developments in pharmaceuticals.

 HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed  al-Saidi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Dr. Ahmed Mohammed al-Saidi has a BSc from Park College, Kansas City, an MB ChB from the University of Glasgow, and studied General Management at Harvard Business School, in addition to a number of other diplomas. His career has included senior medical, administrative, and academic positions in both Oman and the UK, including as Under Secretary for Health Affairs and Senior Consultant Rheumatologist at the Omani Ministry of Health, Deputy Director General (Medical), Head of Medical Division and Senior Consultant Physician/Rheumatologist at The Royal Hospital in Oman, and Consultant Rheumatologist and Senior Lecturer at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the UK.

As Oman attempts to diversify the economy, what investment opportunities are there in the healthcare sector?

The Ministry of Health recognizes the importance of proper health planning. Accordingly, it developed its long-term Health Vision 2050 for developing and sustaining the health system. Health Vision 2050 extensively analyzed the health status of the population and identified paths for development as well as opportunities for international players. The analysis, for example, showed that about 91.1% of requirements from pharmaceuticals and surgical consumables, and all laboratory items, are met through imports; in other words, only 7.6% of pharmaceuticals and consumables are purchased from local manufacturers, and among registered products, local manufacturers register only 3.3%. There is a need to encourage and support the local manufacturing of pharmaceuticals and consumables and to invite major international pharmaceutical manufacturers and investors to set up production in Oman and/or to tie up with local Omani manufacturers for the production of medicines and vaccines if self-reliance is to be achieved.

How does the Ministry of Health collaborate with the education authorities to ensure that Omanis are receiving the best opportunities to work in healthcare?

Medical education commenced in Oman in 1986 with the establishment of the College of Medicine & Health Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) in Muscat. Prior to that, Omani students had to travel abroad in order to pursue medical degrees. The General Medical Council of the UK accredits the MD degree from Sultan Qaboos University. A few private medical colleges are now functioning in Oman, for example Oman Medical College and Oman Dental College. Sultan Qaboos University, health institutes of the Ministry of Health, and private educational institutes including Oman Medical College and Nizwa University provide training to other health professions. The Ministry of Higher Education supports a number of national physicians and other allied health workers to travel abroad for undergraduate and postgraduate education and training. The Ministry of Health also considers sending physicians abroad for postgraduate training. Physicians will thus be exposed to different experiences and to the latest technologies as well as advances in diseases management techniques. In addition to supporting travel abroad programs for postgraduate training, the Oman Medical Specialty Board (OMSB), which was established in 1994 by the Ministry of Health and Sultan Qaboos University, is currently the highest supervisory body of all postgraduate medical training programs in Oman.

What role does the Ministry play in regulating the pharmaceutical sector, and how can this area contribute to the development of healthcare throughout the country?

The Ministry of Health, the main health care provider, spends about 7.3% of its recurrent expenditure on medicine. The Oman National Drug Policy was issued and approved in July 2000. The policy laid out its general objective in its own words as: “The objective of the National Drug Policy is to develop, within the resources of the country, the potential that drugs have to control common diseases and alleviate suffering. The policy aims to ensure and express Government commitment to this objective and to serve as a guide for action by all involved parties in the government, academia, professional organizations, non-governmental organizations, industries, patients, and consumers." In this regard, the health system has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that all legislations and regulations related to medicine and medical products are regularly updated to ensure accessibility to the proper, safe, effective, cost-effective medicines that meet the approved standards and specifications and their distribution to the needy.