Oman taking steps to formulate Health Vision 2050 policy

"We have to analyse the current status and set plans for the future"

Recognising the need for enhancing and improving facilities for tertiary care, the Sultanate is taking steps to formulate its Health Vision 2050 policy that will also see the establishment of a medical city in Muscat. Besides the vital health-care facility, what is also envisaged is development of human resources and a greater role for private sector funding in this direction.
These steps are to be welcomed; they focus on the futuristic requirements of this sector and the necessity of keeping abreast of the latest health-care developments in other countries. As was rightly pointed out by Dr Ali Bin Talib Al Hinai, Undersecretary for Planning Affairs at the Ministry of Health, the firm intention is to frame a new health policy by reviewing the existing one as part of the strategy to create a road map for 2050, and to meet future health-care challenges.
Considering the tremendous economic and social development witnessed in the Sultanate so far, the Health ministry’s vision of a goal for 2050 are to be applauded. It plans to organise a conference of international experts, including health ministers from the GCC countries in May this year to deliberate on various aspects of health-care in order to prepare the road-map for the growth of this sector in the Sultanate. The conference will be preceded by workshops during which the first draft of Health Vision 2050 is likely to be discussed. After international experts have considered and discussed the draft, an advisory panel will take a look at it.
While primary and secondary care facilities have made tremendous strides, the focus is on enhancing and improving tertiary care facilities. Quality and expert care in this direction will benefit many patients; they would opt for treatment within the country and may not feel the necessity of going abroad for such care. Availability of all related health-care requirements, including top-notch expert assistance, in one central location like a medical city is to society’s great advantage as it would get rid of the costly and cumbersome process of moving patients between facilities. It would also quicken the sometimes long wait for expert appointment by patients.
The role of private investors in the expansion of the health-care sector in the country is indeed a crucial one, and members at the forthcoming conference would also deliberate on this. Factors and complexities of modern day health systems include state-of-the-art infrastructure, doctors, nurses, allied staff and related support facilities – they pivot around the strength and quality of human resource managements. Health-care the world over has become a costly affair, and it does not appear that costs, including the prices of drugs, would come down significantly in the near future. All these factors, including costs of medical treatment, will be on the front burner during the forthcoming conference as the Sultanate anticipates its future challenges and prepares its vision accordingly. The entire exercise is in keeping with the country’s overall development and progress in various economic sectors over the past four decades, and being prepared to meet future challenges.
In a statement to the press in Muscat, earlier in the week, Dr Ali Talib Ali Al Hinai, undersecretary for planning affairs at the Ministry of Health, said, “Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Saidi, the Minister of Health, directed last year that the MoH in the Sultanate needs to have a long-term health policy since the last one was made in 1992.”
He said the country needs a national health policy “first of all to see what achievements it has achieved and accomplished in the health sector in general.
“Besides, we have to analyse the current status and set plans for the future. Of course we have a Five Year Plan which discusses plans, goals and indicators to be achieved within five years. But we now want to have a long term vision for the health sector that is planned and put in paper.”
Dr Al Hinai said it was in the context of formulating the new national policy that the ‘Health Vision 2050’ conference has been planned.
“We want this new long term policy to be internationally recognised and to formulate it we need the suggestions of global experts who will participate in the conference,” he further said.
The planning process for the new national policy has been in progress for the last year.
“Omani experts from various fields like primary (health), secondary (health), tertiary (health), pharmaceutical, nursing, education, quality assurance and so forth have been putting their thoughts on paper. In fact, committees have been formed for the same,” the undersecretary said.
He also clarified that “right now what is being planned is not a strategic and executive plan but a vision about how we want to see health services in Oman by 2050 and how we are going to reach that. This vision will be translated as policies and procedures. It will also be a part of the government’s Five Year Plan.”
Dr Al Hinai also stated that what they were working towards is a national policy and not a Ministry of Health policy.
“This means that every single person or ministry (like agriculture, environment, education) who is going to have some kind of impact on health will be a part of the health systems,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has visited all the ministries, which in turn have set up a working group in tandem to help put the National Health Policy in place.
“All the ministries have submitted their policies and I must say they have done a good job,” Dr Al Hinai said. The three day workshop that starts on April 1 is when the real work of putting the policy on paper will start.
“Those committees which were formed four to five months ago will meet to present their policies. The papers will be discussed and once it is amended and approved, it will be taken to the second stage where governors of governorates will look into these polices and suggest what needs to be included,” explained Dr Al Hinai.
With this, the first draft of the National Health Policy will be ready and will be sent to the 46 speakers who will be attending the Health Vision 2050 conference.
“These 46 international experts from different fields have been handpicked. They will form the second draft which will be discussed at the conference,” he informed.
From among the 46 experts, 10 to 12 members, who will be chosen to an advisory board to help finalise the draft.
“This advisory body will take a final look at the policy and make sure it is up to the international standards and is also realistic and imaginative. Once they approve, it will be taken to the government, to the Shura and State Council. We also plan to hold discussions with NGOs and see if they have any advice to offer. Once the advisory board clears the National Policy it will be submitted to the Sultan.
“The advisory board will not only prepare the final policy but it will also monitor the implementation of the policy to make sure that it takes us through to 2050,” Dr Al Hinai explained further.
The main purpose of this conference is to evaluate the health services in the Sultanate, review the achievements of the past years, address the current challenges and obstacles encountered, and seek solutions for tackling them, with a view to providing high quality healthcare to the citizens of the Sultanate of Oman.