Qatar is not well equipped to deal with medical emergencies such as epidemic outbreaks, mainly due to the lack of proper laboratories in the country, according to a recent report released by the Permanent Population Committee.
The report, which took note of the tremendous improvements in the health sector in the country over the past few years was, however, critical about several aspects. It said there was total lack of a policy to deal with psychological diseases among nationals and expatriates and the services offered in this field were not up to the mark.
The ratio of doctors in the country was higher compared to the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries. There were 2.2 doctors for every 1,000 people, the report said, citing 2006 figures. However, compared to advanced countries the number of health staff in Qatar is not sufficient. The ratio of nationals working in the health sector was even lower, it said.
The major future challenge in the health sector as identified by the report is to curb the spread of diseases resulting from the influx of a large expatriate workforce into the country and the subsequent growth in population. In this context, the report said that the country was not fully equipped to deal with the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009. In the absence of advanced laboratories, blood samples were being sent abroad for confirmatory tests. The country also had to rely on imported vaccines.
The report identified tuberculosis, renal diseases, hypertension, diabetes and tumours as the major causes of death in Qatar, besides road accidents and bad habits such as smoking. It warned about an increase in chronic renal diseases among the native population in the years to come due to the high prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, obesity and genetic diseases.
The number of HIV/AIDS cases in Qatar stood at 242 in 2006 while 306 pulmonary TB cases were reported in the same year. Life expectancy increased from 73.5 years in 1986 to 78 years in 2008.
Qatar made remarkable strides in reproductive health with maternal deaths falling to 7.08 per 100,000 births in 2008.
The report called for a comprehensive policy for Qatari health staff that can meet the present and future challenges and cover psychological health as well. It also urged looking into the issue of senior citizens and underlined the need for a strategy to keep them healthy and sound and end their isolation from the rest of the society.
The report stressed the role of civil society organisations in creating health awareness among the public and called on the authorities to ensure their involvement in such activities.
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