AMMAN — Jordan can no longer bear the overwhelming pressure on its healthcare sector and its associated costs without considering new and effective solutions to enhance sector efficiency, Minister of Health Firas Al Hawari said on Sunday.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Jordan News Agency, Petra, Hawari noted that the ministry has implemented advanced scientific strategies to improve efficiency, including the establishment of a virtual hospital, to improve efficiency and overcome the low number of hospital beds per thousand people in Jordan.

The ministry has implemented key initiatives to develop the healthcare infrastructure and workforce to meet the population's needs, particularly in response to the Kingdom’s substantial refugee populations, including the 1.3 million Syrian refugees residing in Jordan. Hawari acknowledged the financial burden of building new hospitals and emphasised the importance of enhancing primary healthcare services, with a focus on family medicine principles, as an alternative approach to address overcrowding.

The minister provided updates on the construction of new hospitals, including Princess Basma Hospital in Irbid Governorate, which is 55 per cent complete and will have a capacity of up to 650 beds. Plans are also underway to build hospitals in Mafraq and Madaba governorates, military hospitals in Zarqa and Maan governorates and a university hospital through the Saudi-Jordanian Investment Fund. Existing hospitals like Al Hussein Medical City and Al Bashir Hospitals will also undergo expansion, he noted.

Hawari revealed the ministry's collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship to explore the establishment of a “virtual hospital”. This innovative approach aims to alleviate the pressure on central hospitals by providing comparable healthcare services virtually, leveraging modern technologies and virtual healthcare techniques.

The ministry has enacted approximately 40 pieces of legislation in the past two years to improve work regulation and facilitate services for recipients, he said, noting that amendments have been made to the health insurance system, and efforts are underway to enhance the training and skills development of the healthcare workforce.

Hawari expressed concern about the decreasing support for Syrian refugee host countries, which negatively impacts the sustainability of Jordan's healthcare sector. The number of hospital beds per 100,000 people has decreased due to the refugee crisis, reaching 1.42 beds compared to 1.8 beds in the last decade, he said, explaining that the recommended standard for middle-income countries like Jordan is 3.9 beds for every 100,000 individuals.

Despite the challenges, Jordan has demonstrated readiness during the COVID-19 pandemic through effective management of the healthcare sector, he said, noting that the ministry has opened new hospitals, expanded health centres, increased the number of specialised doctors and improved healthcare services.

The ministry will collaborate with the World Health Organisation to establish new medicine warehouses, implementing an electronic system to control inventory and minimise wastage. Efforts are also being made to reduce the pricing of medicines, vaccines and serums, he said.

Jordan aims to achieve comprehensive health coverage by 2030, and the coverage has expanded, with 3.49 million individuals covered. However, 1.9 million Jordanian citizens and approximately 1.3 million Syrian refugees remain uninsured, he said.

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