The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is leading GCC Healthcare at an expansion rate of 12.3%; an 11.4% CAGR is estimated for the entire region to 2015. The sector is highly prioritized by the government as substantial measures have been put in place for national health development. KSA healthcare system falls among one of the most efficiently and effectively managed according to WHO and other recent rankings. Demographically, the country’s population is growing at 2.1%.
At 28.3 million in 2012 the population is estimated to reach 30.9 million by 2015, exceeding the current 60% of the total GCC population. The portion of expatriates among the population is also expected to increase from 7.5 million (2010) to 8.1 in 2015 despite Saudization programs to reduce economic dependence on expatriates. A large belt of middle-aged population between 30 to 34 years exists. KSA was ranked 145 with a GII value of 0.682 in 2012 and HDI has increased sturdily over the years to a value of 0.782 (57 out of 178 countries).
Economic wise, the country highly powered by its natural oil reserves and its contribution to a GDP (PPP); A sturdy 4.2% average growth is projected to 2018. Oil sector contribution to GDP is poised at 20% with the government making considerable attempt to reduce the impact on economic progress. KSA contributes over 63% of GCC healthcare expenditure with 3.6% contribution of GDP.
Comparative data from 2011 shows that KSA lays below world average in terms of Health Sector Indicators. Nurses and mid-wives and physicians per 1000 stood at 2.1 and 0.94 respectively; however hospital beds and other facilities are on the higher side. Contraceptive usage and tuberculosis treatments fell below regional average but births per 1000 and immunization levels are almost at 100%; far higher that regional average. Major adult risk factors include raised blood glucose, raised blood pressure and obesity popular among men and women. The healthcare system basically consists of the MoH and quasi-government institutions that are together managed by the government, and private institutions managed by private investors.
Quasi government institutions have highest bed capacity per medical facility and the MoH holds 60% of total hospitals numbering 250 as at the close of 2013. Health systems include the Health Services, MoH and the General Commission for Food and Medicines. The 4-tier healthcare system in the making principally classifies facilities into healthcare centres, local hospitals, general hospitals and central hospitals, interconnecting them to a central medical city in the form of a pyramid and well organize format. Controlled from the MoH Central through the regional Director of Health Affairs to Deputy Hospital and Deputy Primary Health Affairs, measures are instituted to enhance the effectiveness of mass gathering medicine in periods of Hajj performance and the enrollment of a national health insurance scheme.
Healthcare IT systems have been in focus since the eighth development plan and are firmly established for take-off; establishing immense growth prospects in the area of healthcare IT. The ninth development plan, MoH ten year strategic plan, KSA Vision 2024 and other strategic plans firmly outline projected expansion in various aspects of healthcare development.
Major Challenges encountered by the government and the health system include changing diseases patterns, unequal health service distribution and accessibility, inadequate crisis prevention management and underutilization of eHealth systems. Other critical issues include the uncertainty of processes of privatization of public hospitals, health financing concerns, overpowering role of the MoH, in addition to other workforce issues. Key areas of prospective development include areas of Healthcare IT, medical cities projects, increased demand for healthcare practitioners and human resources, private sector medical equipment and infrastructure prospecting, and finally a highly attractive pharmaceutical industry.
The future is associated with high levels of uncertainty as KSA major oil consumers like USA and China aspire to cut oil imports and export themselves. The government of KSA plans stabilize projections by budgeting below the actual market price of its major export, creating room for large amounts of surplus. Other economic step-ups are critical if a more sustainable economy is to be created for the future generations of the country.