Healthcare in Saudi Arabia is principally directed by the MoH, which is responsible for around 70% of all healthcare provision. However, other public bodies also provide extensive and often very advanced care; the major ones are listed below.
The General Organisation of Social Insurance (GOSI) is a “semi-state body” which administers the Kingdom’s national insurance scheme. GOSI covers industrial workers and pays allowances compensation to individuals and families within the scheme. It is funded by employers and the government, with no employee contribution. GOSI currently operates two hospitals for the exclusive use of its members.
The Saudi armed forces operate a number of healthcare facilities in the country. By 1999, hospitals run by the armed forces had a total of 4,526 beds, equal to around 9.9% of the national total and an increase of 2.6% over the previous year. Facilities for the armed forces are usually more lavish in terms of construction and equipment, and are generally of a higher standard than other facilities in the public sector. Although such facilities are not open to the public except in times of emergency, armed forces hospitals treat around 150,000 patients annually and provide medical care for pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina. The armed forces also operate an airborne emergency medical service.
The Saudi National Guard formed its own Health Affairs department (NGHA) in 1994. The NGHA provides a range of rimary, secondary and tertiary services to National Guard employees and their dependants. The NGHA currently perates four major hospitals, the King Fahd Hospital in Riyadh, the King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital in Jeddah, theKing Abdulaziz Hospital in Al-Hassa and the Imam AbdulRahman Al-Faisal Hospital in Dammam NGHA also rovides primary healthcare at medical centres nationwide, other specialist clinics and non-hospital nursing care.
Ministry of the Interior
The Ministry of the Interior security forces have their own hospital in Riyadh, which has around 450 beds. The hospital has a computerised information gathering system, which connects the hospital to Ministry of the Interior clinics throughout the country. This allows efficient and quick access to patient data, allowing patients to be diagnosed without referral to the main hospital in Riyadh.
Red Crescent Society
The Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, is a major provider of first aid and emergency services in Saudi Arabia. The Red Crescent operates health centres, mobile clinics, ambulances and helicopters. The society plays a major role in providing health services for pilgrims during the annual Hajj season. In 2002, 70 clinics were operational in the Hajj seasons, manned by some of the 1,000 volunteers.
The Kingdom has a number of university or specialist hospitals covering wide areas of specialty, from general surgery, paediatric care and ENT services to internal medicine, radiography and transplants. These facilities include the King Khaled University Hospital, the King Abdulaziz University Hospital, the King Abdulaziz University Hospital and the King Faisal Specialist Hospital.
There is an advanced but relatively small private sector, mainly based in Riyadh, Jeddah, the eastern industrial region and along the western pilgrimage routes. Several high-tech hospitals have been established, such as the Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital, which was founded in 1978. This particular hospital has a 1,020 beds, several operating theatres, advanced X-ray rooms, six intensive care units and a 520-bed paediatric department. The private sector has grown
steadily in recent years.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance is legal in Saudi Arabia and a number of multinational companies operate in the market. Competition has resulted in lower premiums, but has put a number of insurers out of business. Private medical insurance has therefore been an unstable sector used mostly by expatriate workers. In 2001, however, it was announced that Saudi employers would be required to provide health insurance coverage for their foreign workers. Under the scheme, the Saudi Health Insurance .Council has mandated an annual insurance premium of SR1,000 (US$267) per employee.. Beneficiaries pay 20% of the cost of outpatient services, including consultation, investigation and medication, but no co-payment is levied on hospital care. The system became applicable to all foreign workers in 2004. If successful, the scheme will be extended to Saudi nationals.