Saudi Arabia is witnessing a fast-growing population along with increase in major lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes and obesity. These are the major factors affecting the growth of the healthcare providers and demand for quality healthcare. Saudi government has created many medical opportunities and attracted health professions in the recent years. A number of medical, nursing and health schools were introduced in the country to reform and provide quality healthcare to the population. A total of 73 private and government colleges for medicine, health, nursing and health institutes were established in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian government need to implement new laws and regulations to develop and reorganize medical human resources within the country.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia offers free health facilities to all its citizens and has always remained the priority sector. The government also extend its help by paying for all medical charges incurred even outside the country. The Saudi Arabian healthcare system consists of three service providers namely Ministry of Health (MoH) hospitals, government hospitals and private hospitals. Ministry of Health (MoH) runs over 60% of the hospitals and primary healthcare clinics in the country while private hospitals account for around a quarter of the health care infrastructure available within the country.
With the growing population, it is estimated that the future demand for healthcare facilities will increase rapidly. Despite huge spending in healthcare facilities in Saudi Arabia, the health care infrastructure needs to be improved to match the international standards. More privatization in the healthcare sector within the country may be useful to bridge the void in healthcare service. The major healthcare projects which are due completion in Dammam, Jubail, Riyadh, and Jizan are expected to start operations by the end of the year 2017. Therefore, it creates over 2,000 jobs for young Saudi nationals in the almost all fields of nursing, procurement, marketing, administrative affairs, pharmacy, safety and security.
Saudi Arabian government is in quest of foreign investments for its healthcare industry. The government plans to convert government-owned hospitals and primary care centers into better-run corporations. The country has welcomed US companies to invest in their various healthcare and pharmaceutical services. The U.S companies are permitted to invest 100 percent directly or collaborate with local partners to develop well-defined healthcare services in Saudi Arabia. The country is encouraging privatization in almost all industrial sectors to refurbish its economy, shrink its budget scarcity and wean itself off oil being the major government revenue.
According to the study “Healthcare Providers in Saudi Arabia”, the country has about roughly 150 major healthcare infrastructure projects in the pipeline due completion by the year 2021. Among these projects are a few health cities enabling environment and resources that will witness key reforms to the healthcare sector. The largest health city would be King Abdullah Medical City in Dammam, followed by King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah Province and King Faisal Medical City in Abha. All of which will entertain excellent healthcare services in the country by the year 2021. All these projects are part of Saudi Arabian government’s long-term plans for economic and social development in the country under the project name Vision 2030.
Vision 2030 project is mainly to improved access to health facilities and greater transparency along with increased adoption of technology. By the year 2030, 70% of the Saudi population will have a unified digital medical record with the effect of the project. Most of the funds are spent in boosting infrastructure along with the degree of involvement in providing health services, planning, regulatory and supervisory functions in health care. Sauid’s healthcare market is vast that accommodates room for several other private sector players.
Privatization of public hospitals in Saudi is expected to bring a number of advantages to the government and to the nation. Privatization speeds up decision-making, reducing the government’s annual expenditure on health care, producing new financial sources for the MOH and improving health care services. However, privatization has negative effects such as attracting population who do not require hospital-level care. Also, people with health coverage may prefer to access big hospitals directly instead public hospitals or community hospitals. A major drawback of privatization is that the public hospitals may not be able to absorb enough of the health care market unlike the private hospitals, unless and until its upgraded at all levels such as management, infrastructure and workforce. Privatizations of government hospitals focus their activities only in cities and larger communities, leaving people in rural areas at a disadvantage. The Saudi government should make regulations to protect the rights of rural communities by providing them with fair and equitable healthcare services.
The increasing disease pattern from communicable to non-communicable diseases in the country has become a challenge that needs more attention from the Ministry of Health (MoH). The prevalence of chronic lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases, cancer, genetic blood disorders and childhood obesity are rapidly increasing which need immediate healthcare.
Healthcare services in the country are of highly fragmented nature such as in terms of service providers, pharmaceuticals and insurance providers. Ministry of Health (MoH) in Saudi has developed national strategies to meet the challenges in healthcare system and to improve the quality of healthcare services. Over the recent years, with continuing attention in the healthcare sector in Sauid Arabia has improved the health of the population remarkably. The strong growth in healthcare fundamentals along with the increasing population and regulatory changes, the healthcare sector is expected to experience robust growth in the coming years. It was observed that the healthcare market in Saudi could witness a sea of changes in the coming years.
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Ankur Gupta, Head Marketing & Communications