(MENAFN - Arab News) Despite a network of public hospitals in the Kingdom, the Ministry of Health (MoH) announced in a statement that it has spent SR 1.8 billion on treatment of patients in private hospitals. It did not, however, offer a clear time frame of when that money was spent.
"The amount includes expenses for treatment in private hospitals both in the Kingdom as well as abroad in addition to payment toward organ transplant," Khalid Al-Mirghalani, an MoH spokesman, told Arab News yesterday.
Al-Mirghalani said that the ministry paid SR 630,600,000 for treatment of emergency cases in 56 private hospitals in the Kingdom. An additional SR 88,000,000 went to cases referred for treatment to the Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz City for Humanitarian Services.
Breaking down the expenditures further, Al-Mirghalani said the MoH had dispersed SR 92,000,000 in cash assistance to patients, SR 26,400,000 in rewards to organ donors and SR 963,000,000 for medical expenses incurred abroad.
Explaining the seemingly huge expenditures by the government on private hospital care, Assistant Undersecretary for Hospitals Aqeel Al-Ghamdi said that cases treated in private hospitals at the expense of the state are emergency situations that require urgent and serious action. Under such circumstances, patients are admitted to the nearest hospital, public or private.
This lifeline was extended to adults, children and newborns, Al-Ghamdi said, adding that private sector hospitals have been instructed to admit patients who arrive by Red Crescent ambulance because of a shortage of beds at public hospitals. He also said that patients who do not have insurance are also free to take advantage of this MoH service.
In the case of newborns, a mechanism for transferring babies in need of intensive care to private hospitals has been established for cases where intensive care is not available in public hospitals. The government will bear all relative costs for such patients, Al-Ghamdi said.
In 2012, the total number of private and government hospitals reached 408 with a combined capacity of 55,932 beds. Of these, 244 are government-run and provide 34,370 beds. This is in addition to numerous clinics, primary health care centers and rehabilitation centers.
The Ministry of Health covers more than 60 percent of the nation's health care budget and the government sector dominates the country's health care industry. In addition to providing medical services free of charge to all Saudi nationals, the Ministry of Health offers free health services to pilgrims and visitors during Haj and other seasons via a network of specialized hospitals and health centers.
The government is working to enhance medical education and related infrastructure. It is laying emphasis on the need to educate young Saudi health care professionals on a par with global standards.
Continuing expansion in the private health care sector is expected at a fast pace between 2012 and 2015 due to several factors: A growing population, increase in health care needs as a result of the prevalence of lifestyle diseases - such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and others - longer life expectancy and an improved healthcare industry.
Private hospitals in the Kingdom were the first to introduce a new system that ensures the safety of newborns but government hospitals were quick to follow suit. A newborn protection e-system has been introduced to 16 government hospitals so far as a first phase. He added that the second phase plans to include 149 hospitals with maternity wards.
The new security system is called Hugs and Kisses and it is based on radio frequency identification technology that identifies people by radio frequencies.