Healthcare in Saudi Arabia



Expatriates who look to health care as a primary concern will not be disappointed when they choose to live in Saudi Arabia.

Here, state of the art facilities and equipment, foreign-trained doctors and unceasing government support for health services collaborate to give every individual in the land, Arabian or expat, the best of health care they deserve. 

In this developed nation, the system consists of two tiers. One is a chain of clinics and centers providing basic emergency and other basic health services which are offered all the way into the remotest towns and rural areas while the second covers hospitals and specialized treatment facilities located in the urban areas. This design ensures that all parts of the kingdom are afforded the same level of care by the government as needs remain universal whether one is staying in the capital, Riyadh, or the remote town of Tuwal. 

The Kingdom's efforts to push more vigorously for the provision of healthcare to its people began in the 70's when it mass-hired expatriate hospital staff from nurses to doctors to man its mesh work of hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories and research facilities. Somehow, this has created a trend that made Saudi Arabia heavily reliant on foreign medical practitioners. In fact, an estimated 78% of the Kingdom's 43,000 doctors are expatriates. 

The supervision of healthcare and hospitals in both public and private sectors is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia which operates 62% of the hospitals and 53% of the clinics and centers. As of the moment, the numbers are continuously rising as population in the kingdom continues to grow rapidly. As a commitment to its people, the government continues to provide massive support to existing as well as new projects in order to ensure that health services are accessible to all people at all levels of care. 

During its empowered healthcare system's early days, the ultimate goal was to provide free medical care for everyone in its fold. In 1985 to 1990, they allotted US$16.4 billion for the improvement of their healthcare programs and facilities, including the now world-famous King Fahd Medical City outside Riyadh which cost them around US$534 million. Five more hospitals offering a range of specializations and a capacity of 1,400 beds were completed by the 1990's. 

Due to the great need to fill these facilities with highly skilled and qualified medical professionals, the Kingdom hired expat doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators and, at the same time, encouraged its citizens to enter medical professions. Hence, seven universities offering a variety of health-related studies such as nursing, pharmacology and medicine are now in full operation. The government also finances medical training abroad for qualified candidates and actively pursues medical research. So far, researchers have developed an effective drug that stabilizes blood sugar levels in diabetics. At the College of Sciences of King Saud University, scientists have used radioactive isotopes to determine the effect of antibiotics on body functions. The King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital, staffed by foreign doctors, is a world center for the treatment of eye disorders.

Every expat knows that healthcare in a developed nation is rarely an issue. Then and now, Saudi Arabia was, is and will most likely never be an exception and it will always be an attractive new home to call one's own.


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