Health Care In Saudi Arabia
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health supervises all public and private healthcare and hospitals. They use a two tier system of primary healthcare centers along with urban and specialized facilities. When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 one of King Abdulaziz’s first priorities was to initiate a free modern health care system for citizens and Islamic pilgrims. The Saudi government set up facilities across Saudi Arabia and the results were spectacular. Life expectancy climbed, infant mortality dropped and diseases like malaria and smallpox that were once epidemic just about disappeared. The healthcare system has benefitted from a series of five year plans to improve facilities, train citizens and encourage private sector development. . The success of this initiative can be seen in the growth from 1970 to 2009. In that time frame Saudi Arabia increased its hospitals and healthcare facilities about five fold from “74 hospitals with 9,039 beds’ to “ 415 hospitals in the Kingdom, with 58,126 beds.” . The government is now in another five year process of further improving its healthcare system. This involves educating more Saudi caregivers, hiring expatriate caregivers as needed and constructing more medical care facilities. The Saudi Arabian government also encourages private sector development by offer support including “offering long-term, interest-free loans for the establishment of hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. By 1990, the private sector accounted for 27 percent of Saudi health care services.” .
In 2009 the country had “ 16 government and five private colleges of medicine, 12 government and seven private colleges of dentistry, and 15 government and six private colleges of pharmacy.” . The facilities in 2009 can be broken into two groups; the General Public Facilities under the oversight of the Ministry of Health, which comprised approximately 62% of the hospital and 53% of the clinics and centers. The other facilities are those operated by the armed forces for the benefit of military personnel and their families. .
Healthcare Provider Education:
The Ministry of Health operates the facilities used by the general public..
The Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) defends against external threats and has clinics in Riyadh and Taif along with King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh that has 690 beds, King Abdulaziz Medical City in Jeddah with 350 beds, the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Dammam that has 112 beds, and the King Abdulaziz Medical City in Al Ahsa housing 300 beds. .
The Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MODA) includes the Saudi Arabian Army, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Defense and the Royal Saudi Naval Forces it has nine hospitals to care for MODA military personnel and their families. These hospitals are located around the country and include the large Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, also known as Riyadh Military Hospital Al Kharj in Riyadh 1,100+ beds along with, the smaller Prince Sultan Cardiac Center also in Riyadh with over 150 beds, the North West Armed Forces Hospital in Tabuk that has 350 beds, the King Fahd Military Medical Complex, Dhahran with 316 beds, the Armed Forces Hospital at King AbdulAziz Airbase in Al Khobar with 280 beds, the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Jeddah that has more than 400 beds, the Southern Region Armed Forces Hospitals consisting of the King Fahad Military Hospital and the King Faisal Military Hospital and the Khamis Mushayt that together total 258 beds, the King Khalid Military City also known as Hafr Al-Batin Armed Forces Hospital in Hafr Al-Batin (330 beds, the Wadi Al-Dawassir Hospital in Wadi Al-Dawassir with 100 beds, and the Al Hada Hospital in Taif that has over 500 beds and also operates the Prince Sultan Hospital, the Prince Mansour Hospital, and a rehab centre. .
The Ministry of the Interior maintains the hospitals for their personnel along with that of the Police, Customs Collectors and their families. It has the Security Forces Hospital in Riyadh with 500 beds that serves the Ministry of Interior personnel and there is also a Ministry hospital in Mecca. .
The Saudi Arabian government also provides referral hospitals that render specialized care for everyone. These include the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centres, at the Riyadh Site there are 894 beds, at the Jeddah Site there are 320 beds, the King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh has 360 beds, geared towards rehabilitation the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City in Riyadh offers 300 rehabilitation beds. . To help coordinate medical care between these facilities and the Saudi Government the Ministry of Health maintains a Web Site to provide citizens with information about these services and how to access them. .
The Saudi ARAMCO oil company has private hospitals to serve their employees and employee family members. The largest private hospital in Saudi Arabia, the Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah with 600 beds is run under an ARAMCO contract, as are the smaller Saudi ARAMCO Hospital in Dhahran & Al Hasa 405 beds and 80 beds respectively. .
Royal Commission Hospitals, which serve employees and their family members of the Industrial cities in Jubail, on Saudi Arabia’s east coast, and Yanbu, on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The Riyadh Care Hospital, also known as Social Insurance Hospital (GOSI) is in Riyadh and has 255 beds and there is a SAAD Medical Centre in Al Khobar. The private facilities that are run for profit include the Saudi German Hospital and the Jeddah; Dr. Erfan & Bagedo Hospital, both in Jeddah, and the Kingdom Hospital in Riyadh. .
General Health of the Population:
One of the Saudi government’s great concerns is that all Saudis always have the care they need from their nation network of general and specialize care facilities. These specialized care centres have proven successful in procedures ranging from “separating conjoined twins by medical teams at a number of National Guard hospitals” to organ transplants and open heart surgery that is now routine at several hospitals. The Saudi Government subsidizes prescription costs and encourages Saudi companies to manufacture pharmaceuticals to maintain low medication expenses for all Saudis as well. .
Saudi Arabia now enjoys international recognition for its improved medical care. Writing for the United Kingdom’s newspaper The Telegraph Peter Pallot wrote in 2011 that “Saudi Arabia’s health system compares well with the West, but there is still room for improvement.” . Writing in 2011 he cites the following statistics in support of his argument, life expectancy is 75.4 years and infant mortality of 13 deaths per 1,000 live births. Later on he acknowledges that this is better than most Middle Eastern but not up to Western European standards. . Pallot is correct that there was room for improvement. Two years later, in 2013 the World Health Organization reported that life expectancy is up to 76 years and infant mortality is down to 9 deaths per 1,000 live births. . A review of the Saudi Arabia: health profile shows that in every major health concern except for two, Saudi Arabia compares well both regionally and internationally. The two areas in which Saudi Arabia shows difficulties in this report are obesity and diabetes. . (See: Attached Addendum A).
In his article Pallot also refers to the universal free health care enjoyed by Saudi nationals. In particular he mentions the King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh, the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital and that Saudi Arabia at 2.5 physicians per 1,000 people it has more practicing physicians per capita than the United Kingdom that has 2 physicians per 1,000 people. . NationMaster has a more extensive report available that is based upon a variety of sources including, UNICEF, the U. S. A. CIA World Factbook, December 2003, World Development Indicators database, WHO 2002a, UNICEF; UN (United Nations). 2002. They break their findings out into regional and national rankings that show Saudi Arabia in the middle to the more positive percentiles regarding health statistics. .
One of the major observations that Pallot makes in his article is that all of this comes at a cost. Saudi Arabia invested more in its health care system than most of the other nations in the region. As a result of this additional effort the proportion of the national budget devoted to health care is more than double what it was in 1970. . Pallot does not recognize the possible positive effects of the high level of employment engendered in the construction of medical care facilities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies and the ancillary staff employed in maintain and staffing these associated facilities. Saudi Arabia enjoys one of the consistently lowest unemployment rates in the region. .
Never the less, the Kingdom recognizes that they could no longer provide free health care for all the foreign nationals within its borders. Therefore, it instituted a policy of requiring compulsory medical insurance for expatriates. Many of the non-citizens in Saudi Arabia is employed within the oil industry. In that event they have an excellent resource in the care centres run by the Saudi ARAMCO oil company whose private hospitals to serve their employees and employee family members. ARAMCO operates Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah and smaller Saudi ARAMCO Hospitals in Dhahran and Al Hasa. (Ziegler, 2013). Unfortunately, this does not benefit tourists, pilgrims and expatriate business travelers. These people should secure medical prior to traveling. Because negotiation among insurance companies was encouraged and transparency demanded these corporations were forced to provide excellent coverage at reasonable costs. .
One of the additional concerns is that Saudi Arabia is the annual destination for pilgrims visiting holy sites. This presents a unique problem when vast groups from different locations world wide gather together in close proximity to each other. The possibility for the spread of disease is multiplied exponentially due to this and Saudi Arabia maintains special services to raise the level of alert and provide the maximum levels of service during the times that experience the highest number of pilgrims. .
One of the concerns that researches have when looking at the health statistics for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is that, since most of the medical care is government sponsored, there may be a biased slant to how the figures are reported. . However, completely unbiased data keepers such as the World Health Organization, the United States CIA, and the United Nations UNICF organizations hold up the Arabian government’s findings and display steady progress in the general health of the Saudi population as well as in the medical care facilities. , . Other independent reports such as Shushmul Maheshwari’s “A how to tutorial about Saudi Arabia Healthcare, Saudi Arabia” upholds the Saudi government’s statements regarding increased medical care capability due it its recruitment of foreign nationals to supplement the Saudi nationals serving as medical care givers. .
In addition to the obvious increased benefits enjoyed by the progressively improving health of the Saudi population there are far reaching benefits that extend to industry and employment which consistently among the best in the region . The growth in the pharmaceutical industry and medical devices and supplies are two of the factors driving this. Saudi Arabia is also beginning to enjoy a medical tourism trade and that is one of the highest recommendations any countries health care can receive.
Al-Zalabani, A. H., 2011. Online sources of health statistics in Saudi Arabia. [Online] Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21212909
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2013. Health of Visitors and Residents. [Online] Available at: http://www.moh.gov.sa/en/HealthAwareness/Pages/001.aspx
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2013. Ministry of Health Portal. [Online] Available at: http://www.moh.gov.sa/en/Pages/Default.aspx
Maheshwari , S., 2011. Saudi Arabia Pharmaceutical Market to Grow at 10% CAGR by 2012. [Online] Available at: articles.pubarticles.com/saudi-arabia-pharmaceutical-market-to-grow-at-10-cagr-by-2012-1291112403,60763.html
Maheshwari , S., 2011. Saudi Arabian Medical Devices Market Poised for Double Digit Growth. [Online] Available at: http://articles.pubarticles.com/saudi-arabian-medical-devices-market-poised-for-double-digit-growth-1299737247,113229.html
Maheshwari, S., 2013. Saudi Government Hires Foreign Doctors. [Online] Available at: articles.pubarticles.com/saudi-arabia-hires-foreign-doctors-to-strengthen-healthcare-industry-1290506223,57780.html
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Saudi Arabia, 2013. Facts About Kingdom. [Online] Available at: http://www.cdsi.gov.sa/english/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=56&Itemid=147
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Ziegler, H., 2013. The Healthcare System of Saudi Arabia. [Online] Available at: http://www.hziegler.com/articles/healthcare-system-of-saudi-arabia.html