When you prepare for expat life in Oman, it’s only natural to be concerned about health risks and medical services in a new country. First, you should talk to your family doctor about recommended immunizations.
Usually, expatriates about to move to Oman receive booster shots for standard vaccinations (MMR, polio, flu, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), as well as additional immunizations for meningitis and hepatitis A/B. Rabies vaccinations are especially recommended if you belong to a high-risk group, e.g. veterinarians or adventure travelers.
Fortunately, Oman is not a region at risk for malaria infections, except for the province of Musandam. However, you should still take precautions against insect bites. Sand flies are carriers of other insect-borne diseases, particularly leishmaniasis. This is a parasitic infection that leads to skin lesions and open sores. If it’s not treated correctly, a more severe form can affect your mucous membranes — e.g. in the nose — or internal organs like your spleen or liver. You should therefore get advice from a travel medical specialist on how to protect yourself against sand flies.
Other illnesses are far more common than leishmaniasis, though. The seasonal flu affects a big part of Oman’s population, and many expats from colder climes may be overwhelmed by the heat and the sun. Afflictions like sunburn, dehydration, or heatstroke can be easily averted. Since 2012, a new, and often severe, respiratory disease, known as MERS-CoV, has been observed in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. The risk of infection seems to be rather low, though.
Take care not to consume tap water (especially outside Muscat) and raw produce to avoid gastrointestinal diseases. Tap water is perfectly fine for brushing your teeth, though, and you needn’t worry about bottled water or ice cubes in a Muscat restaurant.
Last but not least, if you have to import prescription meds, get an official certificate from your doctor. Oman has very strict anti-narcotic laws, which include some medications commonly prescribed in other countries (e.g. anti-depressants or painkillers).
As part of his modernization policies, Sultan Qaboos and his government introduced a comprehensive healthcare system. Oman has made great progress in providing the populace with access to drinking water and sanitation, as well as in lowering the rates of infectious diseases, infant mortality, and maternal mortality. In fact, Oman has a lower maternal mortality rate than the United States.
All Omani citizens have free access to universal healthcare. Much of the staff is foreign-born or received training abroad, but with more young Omanis completing college, this is beginning to change. In larger cities, especially Muscat, the quality of medical care is high, but you shouldn’t expect the same standards in rural areas.
Unfortunately, foreign residents don’t benefit from Oman’s public healthcare system. The emergency rooms of all public hospitals admit medical emergencies, regardless of nationality, but that’s about it. Any non-urgent care has to be paid for immediately — often in cash. It’s absolutely essential for expatriates to have a private health insurance plan.
Medical insurance is frequently offered and paid for by your Omani employer. But some of these employer-sponsored healthcare policies exclude specific private clinics or various medical services, such as mental health issues or dental care. Study your healthcare plan carefully, and either renegotiate the conditions or pay for supplementary insurance out of your own pocket.
If you are looking for a doctor in Oman, try asking your embassy if they know a practitioner who speaks your mother tongue. There are various foreign-born doctors working in Oman, as well as Omani doctors who acquired their medical training abroad. Chances are good that you will at least find someone fluent in English.
To call the police, the fire department, or an ambulance after a traffic accident, phone 999.
In case of any other medical emergency than a road accident, you should call the hospital directly for an ambulance. The emergency numbers of Muscat’s major hospitals are as follows:
Several public clinics in Muscat treat foreign-born patients, offering all sorts of medical services and non-urgent care:
As far as private clinics are concerned, Muscat Private Hospital seems to be popular in the expat community. There are also various optical centers and clinics for dental care in the capital, e.g. the Medident Dental Clinic (which now offers other primary care too).
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