Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 10, 1445 H
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‘Out of stock’; so what...?


Not finding the needed medication for an overactive thyroid or a prescribed antibiotic following a dental procedure in the pharmacies is annoying.

Going from one pharmacy to another hunting for medicine items is disappointing. It costs time and money. Even more frustrating when the reply is the same: “out of stock”.

Then, the question: “when will you have the medicine?” The level of despair goes one knot higher with the answer “we don’t know”. The agony is almost palpable. Why is there a lack of medicine in pharmacies? Until it hit me; the pharmacies are all in the same boat — it doesn’t matter how many one goes. With a sense of understanding and sympathy, pharmacists might suggest asking a friend to bring the medicine from another country or to travel to a neighbouring country to buy the medication.

Not just the curiosity is higher now; a feeling of despair arises as well. What if I can’t get the medication? One can become worse just by worrying about the situation.

The observation on the shortage of medication has been happening for some time already. Not long ago, a tweet sent to the authorities concerned said, “Please, I need X medicine”. Neither a reply nor a tweet addressed the plea. Mainstream media are possibly not aware of the unavailability or the issue is not relevant.

How to reason a lack of medicine? The answer gathered was that Oman is a small market for drug supply. Well, the market might be small but people still need treatment; not everyone can afford a trip to a neighbouring country to buy medicine; not everybody can just travel back to his or her country to buy medicine. Omani nationals have free access to public healthcare, but foreigners do not, which allows a private healthcare sector to flourish.

The shortage or the lack of drug products threatens healthcare quality and public health. It limits patient access to treatment and can be a threat to lives. It sounds to me that the unavailability of medication reveals a questionable management situation. It also rings a bell on the level of reliance a person can have on the healthcare system.

However, Oman is listed as a medical tourism destination. Like other destinations, it expects to tap into billions of dollars in the future. The establishing of the first medical city in Barka, with the first two phases (out of four phases) to focus on commercial operations, private medical facilities, residential projects, etc. is a sign of what rests ahead.

It is well recognised the progress in the health sector that occurred over the past decades. I am pleased to have come across the first edition of the ‘Health Vision 2050’ available online. It is dated 2014. Several proposed developments include a demand for

specialised workforce, establishing medical cities, the development of medical and paramedical staff, etc.

The vision and framework for the next 30 years point to an awareness about the risks and uncertainties in the delivery of healthcare. One just has to pay attention to the coronavirus situation and consequences to consider the knock-on effects.

The cost of medical services is not cheap. So, healthcare is an attractive sector for investors and providers. Various international financiers and health suppliers are willing to embark on the possibilities. The attractiveness is higher when considering the compulsory health insurance schemes for this year for private-sector employees, expatriates, and foreign visitors — while at the same time, a boost to the local insurance sector.

While the healthcare system Vision 2050 is set to bring immeasurable benefits to the population and the economy, in the meantime, many just need to be able to buy the medication for hypothyroidism or supplement vitamins, or still, the prescribed antibiotic for acne.


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