Your guide to health insurance in the Maldives
Living in the Maldives is almost synonymous with living in an absolute paradise. However, like any other place in the world, there are healthcare and health insurance issues to address when first moving or traveling to this beautiful island country. This guide provides all the essential information that expats need to know when living or traveling in the Maldives, covering the healthcare system and health insurance, environmental threats the country faces, and other safety issues to look out for.
Getting to know the Maldives
Hidden within the Indian Ocean, the Republic of Maldives is made up of an elongated cluster of small islands and 26 naturally occurring atolls. The atolls, coral islands that circle reef like lagoons, are divided into 20 administrative regions. The Maldives has a population of around 370,000 people. Of the 1,192 coral islands that make up the country, only 200 islands are inhabited. A third of the Maldive population lives in the capital city and administrative region of Malé. With around 70 of the islands having fewer than 500 people living in it, the Maldives has a largely dispersed population.
Healthcare system in the Maldives
The healthcare system in the Maldives is constantly changing and evolving, making it necessary that you are up to speed with the different aspects of the country’s complex healthcare system and health insurance-related issues before you move or travel there. Here are the most important things you need to know.
Challenges to the Maldives’ healthcare system
With a relatively small and largely dispersed population, the country has experienced many challenges in its healthcare system. There is a lack of human resources and funds in the country to meet the ever-increasing costs of healthcare facilities. In turn, access to healthcare facilities across the Maldives has been poor, although the situation is likely to improve in the future.
Hospitals and medical facilities are very limited in the Maldives. Within the entire country, there are only three hospitals, located in the capital city of Malé. There are smaller medical clinics across the islands, as well as in-house doctors within some holiday resorts, although these facilities are very basic and limited. A decompression chamber is within reach of most holiday resort islands, in the case of a diving emergency.
Hospitals in Malé
In the event of a serious illness or other medical condition, emergency medical evacuation to Malé will be required. Healthcare facilities are limited within the three hospitals in Malé and, therefore, evacuation may be required to hospitals located overseas in Sri Lanka or India where the adequate level of medical care can be received.
The costs involved in covering hospital care, as well as emergency evacuation to India or Sri Lanka are expensive and can add up to over USD$100,000, depending on circumstances. As such, expats in the Maldives are strongly encouraged to obtain international health insurance, which includes air transportation services.
There are three hospitals located in the capital city of Malé which all offer adequate healthcare and emergency stabilizing services - the ADK Hospital, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), and the Tree Top Hospital.
- ADK Hospital: Services offered include emergency care, general surgery, pediatrics, orthopedics, urology, as well as other specialist service departments. Expats opt for care at the ADK hospital, due to the higher standard of medical care and to avoid long waiting lists.
- Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH): Being the largest hospital in the country, the IGMH is serviced through the Maldivian Government, offering emergency and diagnostic care, as well as services in pediatrics, orthopedics, gynecology, and general surgery. Patients generally endure long waiting lists to see a doctor. As such, it is recommended that expats attend the ADK Hospital if they require prompt treatment.
- Tree Top Hospital: Being founded in as recently as 2015, the Tree Top Hospital is the newest of the three hospitals. The hospital caters its services to expats, offering a new alternative to the ADK hospital. It also offers special treatments, including treatments in cardiology, dental medicine, neurology, and plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Private healthcare services are generally very expensive, hence, expats living in the Maldives are strongly encouraged to obtain a Maldives international health insurance policy to ensure ease of access to health and medical facilities within the country.
Recent transition in the healthcare system
The Maldives has recently gone through a transition in its healthcare system. Under the Ministry of Health and Family, healthcare initiatives in the Maldives have focused on health promotion, good quality treatments, and affordable access to healthcare. Here are some of the key changes that the Ministry has implemented:
- The Maldives Children’s Helpline: Part of a larger group of initiatives aimed to improve the protection rights of women and children.
- Center for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHD): Introduced to provide additional preventive health services.
- Decentralization: The Maldives Government has focused on decentralization of medical facilities by building more healthcare clinics across the islands.
- Madhana social health insurance system: Members of the scheme pay an annual fee of Rf.$2000, or $USD130, which is subsidized up to 50 percent by the Government, depending on financial circumstances. In return, the scheme provides affordable healthcare of up to Rf.$100,000, or USD$6,480 annually per member. The scheme also covers dependents of the member, including spouse, children as well as parents.
- Madhana Plus scheme: Provides coverage to healthcare services overseas in India, Sri Lanka, and Waheed, incurring an additional annual fee of Rf.1500.
Due to the subtropical climate and wet seasons in the Maldives, the country endures outbreaks of vector-borne diseases including Dengue Fever and Chikungunya. Both are transmitted by infected mosquitoes resulting in flu-like symptoms. Some cases can become severe, leading to shock, and can be fatal if left untreated.
Outbreaks of dengue fever have been reported in the Maldives. In the first quarter of 2019, 1301 cases were reported by the Maldives’ Health Protection Agency (HPA). Expats living in the Maldives should exercise caution, particularly during the wet season from May to October.
Due to unsafe drinking water, expats should drink bottled water to avoid transmission of bacterial infections, causing diarrhea. Otherwise, sterilization can be achieved through boiling water or using chlorination tablets. Immediate medical attention is therefore required to treat symptoms of these serious conditions and to prevent further deterioration.
The Maldives have experienced environmental challenges such as the December 2004 Tsunami, as well as the current threat of rising sea levels due to global warming. With islands that rarely reach a height of more than 2 meters, the Maldives' coastlines are in danger.
The December 2004 tsunami left the Maldives devastated. It resulted in more than 100 deaths, 12,000 displaced people and property damage exceeded US$400 million. The tourism sector, which the country heavily relies on was, fortunately, able to rebuild quickly through insurance coverage, saving potential damage to the country's economy.
In terms of street safety, the general security with the Maldives has risen in recent years due to the increased threat of terrorism and political unrest within the country. Although terrorist events have been rare to nonexistent in the Maldives, a bomb explosion occurred in Malé in September 2007, injuring twelve foreign tourists.
Furthermore, in 2017 and 2018, many were arrested on terrorism charges relating to attack planning in the Maldives. For this reason, expats living in the Maldives should exercise caution, particularly during public events and political protests in the city of Malé, as they may turn violent.
Emergency protocols should be adopted by residents in the Maldives during the event of an accident, serious illness, or criminal offense. To call the police department in the Maldives dial 1-1-9.
Meanwhile, there are no national emergency services in the Maldives. Expats must contact the hospital directly to organize an ambulance. These are the contacts to emergency medical services available in the country:
- ADK Hospital: dial 331-3553
- Tree Top Hospital: dial #1610
- Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital: dial 333-5335.
- For air transportation or repatriation services, contact East-West Rescue dial: 91-11-2469-9229, 2469-0429, or 2469-8865.
- For maritime emergencies, contact the Coast Guard: dial 1-9-1.
How to find the best private health insurance in Maldives
Pacific Prime offers a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs, be it travel insurance, or international health policy with medical evacuation cover, so much needed for those in the Maldives. Contact our advisors today for impartial advice, or click the button below to revive an instant quote.