Saudi Arabian Health Care System Overview

Population, Demographics and Economic Patterns

The 2010 Saudi Arabian national census estimated the Saudi population at 27.1 million (Albejaidi, 2010). The figure indicates a massive population increase from 22.6 million people in the year 2004. This gap in the population represents 3.2% annual population growth, while the estimated total fertility rate stands at 3.04% per annum (Almalki, Fitzgerald, Clark, 2011). The population of Saudi Arabian natives is about 68.9% of the entire national population, with 49.8% being females and 50.2% being males. 67.1% of the natives are under 30 years of age and 37.2% are under 15 years, while 5.2% are people above 60 years (Yusuf, 2014).

The United Nations (UN) estimates the future population to be 39.8 million people in 2025, and at 54.7 million by the year 2050. This is due to the improved life expectancy of 72.5 years in men, and 74.7 years in women. Additionally, there is a high birth rate of 23.7 per 1000 people.

The mortality rate of youngsters below the age of 5 years has reduced to 20.0 per 1000 live births in the year 2009 from the initial figure of 250 per every 1000 live births in 2006 (Almalki et al. 2011). Economically, the economic patterns of the Saudi Arabian people vary depending on the national economy. While the economic hardships of the Saudi Arabian nationals are apparent, economic situations rarely limit access to health care (Sebai, Milaat, & Al-Zulaibani, 2012).

Saudi Arabia is among the richest Middle East countries with a per capita income of approximately US$24,726 based on the 2008 statistics. The government takes most of the national health care expenses and equips the national hospitals. Saudi Arabia has about 244 national hospitals, with about 33, 277 hospital beds, and 2, 037 primary care centers (Nondo & Fernandez, 2013). The main government health care bodies include referral hospitals and health care research centers.

Access to Health Care Services and Facilities

The Saudi Arabian nationals enjoy free access to health care services in public  health facilities. The government has increased its health care budget to 6.2% from 2.8% in the year 1970. Public health currently accounts for 5% of the national GDP (Aldossary, While, & Barriball, 2008). The health care system entails three levels of health care services, which include the primary, secondary, and tertiary care levels. Primary Health Care (PHC) provides primary health care services, both curative and preventive. On average, 95% of pregnant women access prenatal care, while 94% of the children access vaccination programs (Almalki et al. 2011).

For severe complications, the PHC makes referrals to the secondary and tertiary levels of care. There are 21 emergency major hospitals with seven of them operating on a seasonal basis. These hospitals have about 3408 patient beds, with 176 beds meant for emergency admittances. By 2009, hospitals had over 17886 health care workers (Khalifa, 2014).

Despite the growing importance of public health that the government fosters, several health care lapses need immediate attention. Aldosari (2012) asserts that although individual economic challenges may not hamper a person from accessing health care services and facilities, health care accessibility is still a challenge to some nationals. There is a considerable lack of equity in the access of health care services and facilities amongst the nationals, due to the poor distribution of the health care facilities and services (Albejaidi, 2010). People living in the remote suburbs and those in the borders have minimal access to health care services.

Electric power, transport, water supply, energy, and other social security services are escalating the problem of inequity in access to health care (Altuwaijri, 2008). Moreover, the ineffective cooperation existing between the health care sectors and related departments is another impediment to universal access to health care.

Disease Patterns and Epidemics

Changes in the patterns of diseases from the transmittable forms of diseases to the non-transmittable illnesses is an upcoming challenge for the Saudi Arabian health care sector (Bassiony, 2013). The nation has recently recorded an upsurge in the cases of chronic diseases such as congenital heart diseases, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, genetic blood illnesses such as leukemia, and childhood obesities (Al-Zalabani, 2011). Recent statistics of 2009 reveal that the nation has recorded an increase of up to 23% in the cases of non-communicable diseases. Such changes in the disease patterns have prompted the government to intervene economically, consequently increasing the cost of health care (Al-Buhairan, 2010). Over 7 billion Riyals ($1.87 billion), caters for the treatment of diabetes mellitus and other chronic illnesses. Age-related illnesses, increased rates of fatal accidents, and physical injuries are unique challenges that the health care sector of Saudi Arabia faces.

Statistically, road accidents murdered about 39, 000 travelers and injured approximately 290,000 citizens from the year 1995 to the year 2004. World Health Organization (WHO) classifies road carnage in Saudi Arabia as the greatest cause of unwarranted deaths, bodily injuries, and disabilities among adult males of ages between 16 to 36 years (Al-Ahmadi & Roland, 2005). The cost of treating accident injuries and handling deaths that occur from accidents has risen to Riyals 652.5 million in 2002, an amount that equates to US$ 174 million (Almalki et al. 2011).

Due to the limited number of health care workforce, caring for people suffering from accident injuries has become a serious challenge to the health care department of Saudi Arabia (Almasabi, 2013). Other health care conditions such as mental health and traumatic disorders are increasingly posing unique challenges to the Saudi Arabian health care system

Health Care Research and Disease Outcomes

Technology has significantly improved in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and research on diseases seems to improve with the enhanced computer and scientific technologies (Altuwaijri, 2008). The primary aim of the Saudi Arabian health care research centers is to offer the most favorable patient care (Campbell, Roland, & Buetow, 2000). Outcomes within the health care realm refer to the comprehensive data reported and recorded concerning the results of the patients after undergoing the treatments (Al-Ahmadi & Roland, 2005). Issues of major concern in health care research include changes in the responses of patients to medication and then hospitalization statistics. Al-Buhairan (2010) claims that medical research also includes investigations on the use of emergency health services and investigation of the current trends and threats that affect the health care system of Saudi Arabia.

Summary

As the population of Saudi Arabia increases, the health care system is improving significantly. The improvement of Saudi health care is eminent through the decrease in the child mortality rates, increase in life expectancy, and increase in the fertility rates among Saudi women. Despite suffering from unemployment, the majority of the Saudi nationals located within the health care premises, access free public health services. Only those in remote areas have limited access to health care services and facilities. Nonetheless, the rising cases of non-communicable diseases, lack of cooperation among the health care departments, and unequal distribution of health care centers are critical concerns in the Saudi Arabian health care system.

References

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Al-Buhairan, F. (2010). Health Care Providers’ Opinions of Adolescent Health Care in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46(2), 1-11.

Aldosari, B. (2012). User acceptance of a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) in a Saudi Arabian hospital radiology department. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 12(44), 1-10.

Aldossary, A., While, A., & Barriball, L. (2008). Health care and nursing in Saudi Arabia. International Nursing Review 55(2), 125-128.

Almalki, M., Fitzgerald, G., & Clark, M. (2011). Health care system in Saudi Arabia: an overview. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 17(10), 784-793.

Almasabi, M. (2013). An Overview of Health System in Saudi Arabia. Research Journal of Medical Sciences, 7(3), 70-74.

Altuwaijri, M. (2008). Electronic Health in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 29(2), 171-178.

Al-Zalabani, A. (2011). Online Sources of Health Statistics in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 32(1), 9-14.

Bassiony, M. (2013). Substance use disorders in Saudi Arabia: review article. Journal of Substance Use, 18(6), 450-466.

Campbell, M, Roland M., & Buetow, S. (2000). Defining quality of care. Social Science Medication Journal 51(2), 1611-1626.

Khalifa, M. (2014). Technical and Human Challenges of Implementing Hospital Information Systems in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Health Informatics in Developing Countries, 8 (1), 12-25.

Nondo, H., & Fernandez, J. (2013). Physician Assistant Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Journal of Physician Assistant Education, 24(4), 22-25.

Sebai, Z., Milaat, W., Al-Zulaibani A. (2012). Health care services in Saudi Arabia: Past, present, and future. Journal of Family and Community Medicine, 8(3), 19-23.

Yusuf, N. (2014). Private and public healthcare in Saudi Arabia: future challenges. International Journal of Business and Economic Development, 12(1), 114-118.