Introduction to Oman

The oldest independent state in the Arab world, Oman is bordered by the Arabian Sea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Covering an area of 119, 498 square miles, the country has an estimated population of 3,608, 545, with an estimated population of 1,090, 797 living in the Muscat metropolitan area. Arabic is Oman’s official language, but Urdu, Baluchi, English and numerous Indian dialects are also spoken.

Oman’s Economy at a Glance

According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s “The World Factbook”, Oman is heavily dependent on its depleting oil resources, which generate 84% of government revenue. In 2015, low global oil prices drove Oman’s budget deficit to $6.5 billion, which was 11% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With limited foreign assets, Oman is now issuing debt to cover its deficit and is focusing on reducing the oil sector’s contribution to GDP from 46% at present to 9% by 2020.

Oman has taken a series of measures to cut costs, restrict subsidies to its citizens and raise the price of public services, including water and electricity. It has also actively pursued a development plan focused on diversification, industrialization and privatization, with tourism and gas-based industries being key components of the government’s strategy.

Oman’s Healthcare Sector

According to Alpen Capital, Oman’s healthcare market is projected to be worth US$ 4.3bn by 2020, boosted by a five-year annual average growth rate of 12.9%. It said that an increase in the population and the rising cost of treatment are the primary factors aiding growth.

Thanks to government investment in a national health service over the past few decades, the standard of healthcare in Oman remains high. In The United Nations 2010 Human Development Report, Oman was listed at the top of the world’s 10 leading countries that have made the greatest progress in recent decades in public health.

All Omani nationals and those from other Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (AGCC) countries are entitled to receive free medical treatment at public hospitals.  Expatriates are generally only permitted to use public hospitals in the case of an emergency or when diagnosis or treatment of their condition is not available in the private sector, but as they would be expected to pay, registering for a private health insurance plan is advised. Expatriates working in the government sector, however, may receive free medical care in public hospitals, as may their dependents.

Today, the Ministry of Health monitors the healthcare market, owning and operating 75% of facilities. The country’s healthcare infrastructure now boasts around 67 modern hospitals,  more than 242 health centers and close to 1,000 private clinics, with two medical cities in development. Muscat is home to the largest and best of those facilities.

Muscat-based Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH) is one of the most respected public hospitals in Oman. Opened by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said in February 1990, it is an institution that trains medical students, conducts research and provides tertiary medical care. In May 2005, SQUH achieved its first International Standards certification award, ISO 9001:2000. It was certified again in May 2008 with ISO 9001:2008. Currently, the hospital is actively working on compliance to international hospital accreditation standards.

The Royal Hospital of Oman is another well-respected public hospital in Oman. Also based in Muscat, it is a tertiary-level, acute-care hospital, which provides state-of-the-art services in the specialties and sub-specialties of medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, oncology and laboratory medicine. The hospital recently achieved International Accreditation from Accreditation Canada, an organization that approves standards of excellence in quality care and services of Canadian health institutions and hospitals.

Managed by UME, an international hospital management group, Muscat Private Hospital is the largest private hospital in the city. It provides comprehensive care in all major specialties and is the first hospital in Oman to be accredited by quality accreditation program Joint Commission International (JCI). Other popular private hospitals in Muscat include Starcare Hospital and Altas Hospital.

Private medical facilities that specialize in homeopathy, and Chinese and ayurvedic medicine also exist in Oman.

Medical Devices Market in Oman

Oman’s medical devices market is governed by the Directorate General of Pharmaceutical affairs/Ministry of Health. There is very little domestic production in Oman, therefore the market is heavily reliant on imports.

Products are usually allowed to be imported freely, but in some cases, a classification committee determines if a device is required to undergo a full registration (which is usually the case for higher class devices). The registration process may involve a pre-qualification of the manufacturing company if the intention is to participate in governmental tenders.  Licenses are valid for a period of five years, with those being held by local importers (not necessarily the manufacturers’ official importers).