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Beginnings and Objectives

Cooperation in health field among the GCC States began in the mid seventies of the twentieth century when the GCC Health Ministers held informal meetings such as the one held in Geneva (16 May 1975) on the sidelines of the meetings of the General Assembly of World Health Organization. Such cooperation developed, after consultation among the concerned States, into the establishment of the "Conference of the Health Ministers of the Arab Countries in the Gulf" which held its first meeting in February 1976, and was later called "the Council of the Health Ministers of the Arab Countries in the Gulf" as of 1981 and then " The Council of the GCC Health Ministers" since 1991.

Considering the field of health as an important sector in the GCC activities, and recognizing the steps that the joint health action has achieved within the framework of coordination and cooperation, the subsequent efforts have completed achievements of the Office, benefiting from the comprehensive perspective and the political support provided by working within the framework of the GCC. In this connection, the objectives set forth in the GCC Chart and in the Economic Agreement were the basic grounds for the efforts of coordination and cooperation among the bodies concerned with health affairs in the GCC States, with a view to achieving the following objectives:

Development of coordination and cooperation among Member States in the preventive, therapeutic and rehabilitative health fields.
Identifying the concepts of the various health affairs and the endeavor to unify them, arrange their priorities and adopt common programs.
Opening new channels of convergence with the international experience and enhancing cooperation with the Arab and international health organizations.
Procurement of high quality, safe and effective medicaments at appropriate prices through the program of group purchasing of medicaments and medical supplies.

Achievements in the Health Field

The joint health work in the health field has attained several achievements, which are the following:

1. According equal national treatment to GCC citizens, in respect to the provision of health services, in all Member States. That was achieved by the issuance of the Supreme Council's resolution providing for same national treatment of GCC citizens at public hospitals, clinics and health centers.
2. Facilitation of the movement of organ implantation teams across GCC States. An agreement was made between the Ministries of Health, Customs Departments and Passport Departments on a common form for entry of medical teams and on the common card borne by mobile medical teams. The Supreme Council (18th session, Kuwait, December, 1997) approved the mechanisms and procedures related to facilitation of movement and exchange of organ implantation teams among GCC States.
3. Increasing customs tariff on tobacco products from 50% to 100%. This resolution came into force in all Member States. The GCC Member States are considering to further increasing tobacco tariff to be 150%.
4. Proper disposal of medical wastes at hospitals and health centers. The Supreme Council (20th session, Riyadh, November, 1999) adopted the "Unified Law for Management of Healthcare Wastes". The Law provides for developing an effective mechanism for coordination between relevant ministries and agencies at each Member State concerning application of proper measures for the disposal of medical wastes.
5. Establishing societies for the GCC physicians and registering them at the GCC States, such as the Society of Doctors of Nose, Ear and Throat (Bahrain), Society of Cosmetologists (UAE), Society of Orthopedists (Bahrain) and Society of Ophthalmologists (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).
6. Formation of a GCC Committee for Pharmaceutical Control to ensure protection of individuals and development of the control bodies with a view to procure good high-quality medicaments that are conforming to the technical conditions and the requirements of drug registration. The committee was formed for the purpose of:

Procurement of good high-quality medicaments, conforming to the technical conditions and the requirements of drug registration
Ensure that all imported drugs are accompanied with the required certificates.
Supervising the destruction of drugs

To that end, "A Guide for unification of the procedures and restrictions related to the medicaments imported via the GCC ports" has been prepared. The Supreme Council approved that Guide at its 28th session (Doha, December 2007).

7.The "Food Safety Committee": This is a permanent technical committee composed of representatives of the food control bodies at the GCC States. The committee ensures safety, validity and quality of the consumer foodstuffs and that all foodstuffs imported into the GCC States conform to the safety and quality requirements and to the approved GCC standards, and accompanied with the necessary health certificates. The Supreme Council's resolution (27th session, Riyadh, December 2006) approved "The Guide for the Control of the Foodstuff Imported into the GCC States" which will be implemented in 2008.
8. Group purchasing of medicaments and medical supplies: Cooperation in this field has achieved a great success in obtaining competitive and reasonable prices from drug manufacturers. The program has urged participation of many public and private health institutions, indicating the need for future expansion of the program, which, apart from being cost-effective, represents the best approach for dealing with globalization in industry and trade.