Egypt, the universal health system, and a new medical super hub
17 July 2019

Egypt extends public health service to all its citizens and initiates the first phase of creating a universal system. It also focuses on private healthcare with the construction of a hub with centers of excellence at the service of the new administrative capital.

Announced a year ago by President al-Sisi, the universal health system started in Port Said on 1 July with a pilot phase that will last until 1 September. As stated by the Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed, it will be extended to all governorates of the country by 2032 with a six-step time schedule. During the pilot phase, the system will start providing quality medical services and building the database with user registration. When fully operational, it will offer new specialties such as open-heart cardio-surgery, nephrology, bone marrow transplantation, neurology and micro-surgery.

The new system will be introduced in six stages. The first phase, which lasts until 2020, also includes Suez, Ismailia, North and South Sinai. The second phase, from 2021 to 2023 will touch the governorates of Aswan, Matrouh, Qena, Luxor and the Red Sea, the third from 2024 to 2026 will include Beheira, Alexandria, Sohag, Kafr el-Sheikh and Damietta, the fourth from 2027 to 2028 in Asyut, New Valley, Minya, Beni Suef and al-Fayoum and the fifth from 2029 to 2030 includes Dakahlia, Gharbiya, Sharqiya and Menoufia. The sixth and final phase will cover Cairo, Giza and Qalioubiya and will be between 2031 and 2032.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli described the new system as “one of the most important national projects”. The new system, which replaces the old one dating back to the 1960s, covers all citizens: the state will support the medical expenses of the needy, while the workers will contribute by paying 1% of total income. But new taxes will also be needed to finance it. Public and private companies of any size will have to pay a 0.25% tax on revenues, while the tax will be double (0.5%) food and pharmaceutical companies.

Other means of financing will be taxes for the issuance and renewal of driving licenses, motorway tolls and a tax on smoking: 0.75 Egyptian pounds on cigarette packets and 10% on tobacco products. In addition, the reduction in fuel subsidies has resulted in savings of approximately $2.8 billion for the Egyptian state in the 2018-2019 fiscal year that ended on 30 June. Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said the money saved will be used for health programs, as well as for social justice, education and general wage increases. On July 5, the Egyptian government announced a final cut in fuel subsidies.

As the Egyptian population grows and government policies extend the number of citizens who have access to the health service, the requests for services and hospital spaces will increase, creating opportunities for the private sector as well. Recent data from the World Bank estimate that since 2012, Egypt has 1.6 hospital beds per thousand inhabitants compared to a ratio of 2.3 in Tunisia and 2.7 in Turkey. With a birth rate of 3.31, the demand for services is destined to rise and the government, in fact, is increasing public spending on health: 98.7 billion Egyptian pounds (5.3 billion euros) in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Several real estate companies are studying the health sector, which in the future will have to provide new structures and new beds. A project already in the pipeline, which should start by the end of the year, provides for the construction of a medical citadel alongside the new administrative capital. The medical hub will be of the highest levels possible and will include three hospitals: one general, one pediatric and one for maternity. Each hospital will extend over an area of ​​20 thousand square meters.