As part of the country’s ongoing plan to enact a comprehensive health insurance system nationwide, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has inaugurated the medical complex in the town of Ismailiya on the bank of the Suez Canal halfway between its north and south tips, as well as a number of other hospitals and medical institutions via video.
The President began by paying tribute to the health workers. “We pay tribute and appreciation to the workers in the health sector whether those who lost their lives while an the job or those who are still performing their amazing and great role to protect our people from this [COVID-19] pandemic,” President Sisi said.
Egypt’s Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed said that, at a cost of EGP10.12 billion, the Ismailiya medical complex includes 12 hospitals, 54 family medical units dealing with various medical specialties, as well as emergency units that provide high-quality services. Some 1.1 million citizens have already registered their names to join the health insurance system, from among a targeted 1.38 million citizens, Dr Zayed said.
The Minister noted that another new system is being operated in the southern city of Luxor through seven hospitals and 59 family medical units, at a cost of EGP9.6 billion, where some 800,000 have joined out of a total 1.27 million citizens targeted.
During the inauguration ceremony, Dr Zayed reviewed the strategy of implementing universal health insurance in Egypt at a cost of EGP 23 billion.
The newly opened complex in Ismailiya, she explained, is among the first phase in the health insurance system, a phase which included Port Said, Suez, Ismailiya, North and South Sinai. The second phase runs from 2021 to 2023, in the governorates of Aswan, Matrouh, Qena, Luxor and the Red Sea. The third, from 2024 to 2026, covers Beheira, Alexandria, Sohag, Kafr al-Sheikh and Dumyat (Damietta). The fourth phase extends from 2027 to 2028 and includes Assiut, the New Valley, Minya, Beni Sweif, and Fayoum; whereas the fifth phase runs from 2029 to 2030 and covers Daqahliya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya and Menoufiya. The sixth and final phase, from 2031 to 2032 covers Cairo, Giza, and Qalioubiya.
The Minister said that the project had been launched in 2018, when President Sisi announced that a universal health insurance system would be implemented in Egypt. He had already declared when he was elected in June 2018 for a second term as President of Egypt that, topping his agenda for the new term were health and education reform.
According to Dr Zayed, the headquarters for the Universal Health Insurance authority has been set up in Cairo. Other premises are being prepared in the Suez Canal region and in Upper Egypt. Meanwhile, a number of premises in use by the current authority of health insurance—which does not cover all Egyptians—have been approved for use by the universal health insurance one it is implemented in these places.
“The Health Ministry is the body coordinating efforts by the all other cabinet ministries and official bodies involved in the universal health insurance system,” Ashraf Ismail, Head of the General Authority for Healthcare said, “these being the Planning, Communications, Finance, Social Solidarity, and Military Production ministries, as well as local governors, and the Authority of Administrative Control.”
Dr Ismail explained that the new health system will be applied not only in Health Ministry hospitals, but also in teaching hospitals, private hospitals, and any hospital that applies to join the universal health insurance system and complies with its standards.
The first phase of Egypt’s new universal healthcare insurance system was launched in 2019 in the Mediterranean coastal city of Port Said, which sits at the northern tip of the Suez Canal.
Port Said ranks among the most developed cities in Egypt; it is the capital city of the governorate that carries its same name. It ranked second among Egyptian cities in the Human Development Index for 2009 and 2010. At some 600,000 it is not densely populated. The economic base of the governorate is fishing and industries including chemicals and processed food; and is a thriving port of export for Egyptian goods such as cotton and rice, also a fuelling station for ships that pass through the Suez Canal.
According to Dr Zayed, the inauguration of the universal healthcare insurance system in Port Said started with a two-month pilot phase that extended from 1 July to 1 September 2019, and involved 20 family medical units and seven hospitals. The pilot phase saw quality medical services provided to users in accordance with Egyptian national standards; also completion of the digital database, including user registration.
The new system is fully digitised, not only where patients are concerned, but regarding doctors, nurses, local medical units and hospitals, and all aspects connected to healthcare. It does not, however, apply to general and preventive healthcare, ambulance services, family planning services, or services relating to epidemics or natural disasters. These were already provided to everyone by the State free of charge.
A comprehensive healthcare insurance system, she announced, will be launched in Aswan by May 2021 at a cost of EGP12.3 billion, through 11 hospitals, 112 family medical units, and 865,226 citizens have been registered out of a total target of 1.54 million citizens. And by June 2021, the insurance system to be implemented in Suez at a cost of EGP3.18 billion, including 6 hospitals, 27 family medical units, with 192,720 citizens have been registered so far out of a total target of 754,966 citizens.
In the run-up to launching the first phase of a new universal healthcare system, Egypt’s Ministry of Health worked on a number of major initiatives during the past few years. Among them was one for the elimination of patient waiting lists for surgery and critical medical interventions within six months; another secured the provision of stocks needed for infant formula and vaccines. A third was concerned with moving forward with the 100 Million Healths campaign inaugurated in 2018, which involved a comprehensive survey and treatment of Egyptians’ most prevalent maladies: Diabetes, Hypertension, and Hepatitis C virus. A fourth involved a nationwide campaign for early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Others concerned the health of schoolchildren, and yet others centred on eye care or other aspects of healthcare. In all the initiatives, the Health Ministry performed brilliantly. The 100 Million Healths initiative successfully tested more than 53 million individuals up to May 2019, providing free treatment for Hepatitis C to 900,000 people.
“Digitisation of the new system led to attracting medical tourism,” Dr Zayed concluded, “Egypt has received patients from the countries of Zambia, Nigeria, Sudan, Yemen and the Philippines. Still, the Ministry is providing services despite the spread of coronavirus pandemic.”