Written by Adam Gonn
Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, 480,000 Saudis still lack access to health care.
A new report by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health has found that an estimated 480,000 of the country’s 24 million citizens lack access to health care.
A majority of those lacking access live in remote villages in the desert and mountain areas, where establishing health centers has proved problematic. The report recommends establishing centralized health services in those regions.
“There is quite a massive building program going on which is [both full and partly] government funded to build more hospitals throughout the country to facilitate greater access to healthcare,” Callan Emery, Editor of Middle East Health magazine, told The Media Line.
Healthcare in Saudi Arabia is funded fully by the government.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 61% of all healthcare workers in Saudi are expatriates. According to the organization this has led to high personnel turnover, causing instability.
The WHO fears that the traditional healthcare system is failing to meet new emerging needs. The body expressed concern over a tendency to separate the finance, provision, control and supervision of healthcare delivery.
While Saudi’s rapid economic development since the 1970s fuel boom has managed to increase Saudis’ life expectancy, the rate of conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure is on the rise.
In October a senior Saudi health official was quoted as saying that an estimated 3.5 million Saudis, or 24% of the population over 30, suffers from diabetes. The government has plans to establish of nine diabetes treatment centers.
In addition to providing healthcare for permanent residents of the kingdom, the Saudi authorities also provide for the millions of Muslims that visit the country as part of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Since the N1H1 outbreak, new guidelines have been set including a requirement for pilgrims to prove they have been vaccinated against the virus.
Some three million Muslim are expected to take part in this year’s Hajj beginning November 3.