In 2001, there were 324 hospitals in Saudi Arabia, compared with 318 in 2000. The Saudi government has been keen to increase the number of health facilities and refurbish existing ones. The Ministry of Health operated 191 hospitals in 2001, or 59.0% of the total. A further 39 hospitals were operated by other government ministries and 94 were in the private sector. The private sector has continued to expand steadily in recent years; there were 72 private hospitals in 1994.
Between them, Saudi Arabian hospitals had a complement of 47,011 beds in 2001, equal to around 2.2 per thousand population. The number of beds has risen consistently in recent years, increasing by 11.5% etween 1994 and 2001. However, these increases have failed to keep pace with population growth, resulting in a radual decline in the bed/population ratio in the last few years.
There were 27,870 beds in MOH hospitals in 2001, equal to 59.3% of the total, a slight decrease over theprevious year. Private hospital beds have increased the most in recent years; between 1994 and 2001, private beds increased by 38.1% to stand at 9,106.
Saudi Arabia’s hospital sector is generally very advanced, but a small number of patients are sent abroad for treatment each year. There were 746 such referrals in 2001, of which 650 were to the USA, 50 to Germany and 28 to the UK. The leading therapeutic areas requiring overseas treatment were cancer treatment and liver transplants.
Ministry of Health Facilities
In 2001, there were 202 public hospitals with a total of 27,870 beds. There were 33 publichospitals with 5,189 beds in Riyadh, equal to 18.6% of all MoH beds. There were a further 34 hospitals and 7,302 beds in Makkah, equal to 26.2% of the total.
Private Facilities by Region, 2001
There are around 100 million outpatient visits in Saudi Arabia each year, equal to around 4.5 per person. Two thirds of visits are to MOH facilities, with the remaining third split fairly evenly between other public facilities and the private sector.
In 2001, there were more than 52 million outpatient visits to MOH facilities, equal to nearly three per person. Around 80% were to health centres and 20% to hospitals. There were 1,847 MoH health centres in Saudi Arabia in 2001. Riyadh accounted for 321 (17.4%), while 281 (15.2%) were in Makkah and 279 (15.1) were in Aseer. The overall number of health centres has increased steadily; there were 1,737 in 1997. Almost all this increase, however, has taken place in Riyadh and Aseer regions.
There were just over 52 million visits to MOH health centres in 2001, equal to around 2.5 per person. Referrals to hospital occurred in 3.2% of visits, equal to around 1.7 million. General clinics accounted for the majority of visits in 2001, at 32.7 million. Riyadh accounted for just under 10.1 million visits, or 19.4% of the total.
Patient Visits to Health Centres, 2001
There were also just under 12.1 million visits to MOH hospital outpatient departments in 2001,equal to around 0.6 per person. Riyadh accounted for 1.7 million visits, Eastern region for 1.6 million and Makkah for 1.3 million.There were around 18.5 million outpatient visits to non-MOH public facilities in 1999 (the latest year for which data is available). Armed forces hospitals accounted for 6.2 million visits, equal to 33.4% of the total. A further 3.1 million visits, or 16.9%, took place in hospitals run by the Ministry of the Interior and Saudi Arabia’s security forces.
Private Sector Outpatient Activity
There were 793 private clinics in Saudi Arabia in 2001. They are heavily concentrated in two regions: Riyadh and Jeddah, accounting for 284 and 277 clinics respectively. The Hajj centres of Makkah and Medinah accounted for 50 and 56 private clinics respectively.
The Saudi Red Crescent Society runs a number of first aid centres across the country. There were 177 in 2001. There were 38 in Riyadh, and 36 in Makkah catering largely for Hajj pilgrims. The Red Crescent also operated 617 ambulances throughout the country in 2001.
There were 31,983 physicians (including dentists) registered in Saudi Arabia in 2001, equal to 1.5 per thousand population. Of these, 14,950 physicians, or 46.7%, were employed by the MOH. The private sector accounted for 9,445 physicians, equal to 29.5% of the total. The remainder were employed in non-MOH public facilities, such as university hospitals and hospitals run by the armed forces.
In 2001, there were 67,421 registered nurses, equal to 3.2 per thousand population. Around 54% of nurses were employed by the MOH in 2001, with a further 19.7% working in the private sector. There were 38,518 allied health personnel in 2001.
Many trained medical staff in Saudi Arabia are expatriate workers, particularly those within the private sector, and relatively few physicians are Saudi nationals. In 2001, 79.3% of MOH physicians and 94.0% of private physicians were non-Saudis. For nurses, 71.7% of MOH staff and 99.2% of private staff were expatriates.
Health Personnel, 1997-2001
Most MoH physicians were classed as general practitioners in 2001; 6,370, or 42.6% of the total. There were 1,384 dentists and 1,140 paediatricians.
Hospitals run by the Saudi Arabian armed forces employed 2,728 physicians in 2001, the largest number in the non-MOH public sector. Armed forces hospitals also accounted for 7,327 nurses and 3,837 allied health personnel. National Guard health facilities employed the second largest number of staff in the sector, with 1,019 physicians and 1,721 nurses.
Non-MOH Public Sector Staff by Institution, 2001