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Doctors & Hospitals for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: July 2014

Saudi Arabia has both public and private hospitals. Healthcare standards are generally comparable to those seen in Western Europe or North America, with Saudi Arabia’s healthcare system ranking 26th according to the WHO. In general, Saudi hospitals can be viewed as having well-trained doctors and high-technology equipment available.

As Saudi Arabia attracts a lot of qualified expatriates from many countries, English is widely spoken by health professionals in Saudi Arabia. In fact, few physicians in Saudi Arabia are Saudi citizens.

If you are not happy with the Saudi healthcare system, you can still consider postponing treatment until after you leave Saudi Arabia. In any event, you must go to a Saudi hospital if you are in an emergency situation. See Health Emergencies for Expats in Saudi Arabia.

 

Public vs. private sector treatment

In Saudi Arabia, the Government retains a large control over the healthcare sector, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Health. Even though there is a growing private sector, most healthcare facilities are directly run by the Government. The private sector comprises of for-profit and non-profit hospitals or clinics.

Expats usually opt for treatment in the private sector. This is because expats have to pay private health insurance anyway and private hospitals tend to be less crowded than their public counterparts. Public hospitals may, however, be given preference if you need specialist care.

Private sector hospitals do not necessarily have higher standards than Government-run hospitals. Some are world-class, but others may actually have poor service quality. Consequently, the best thing to do is generally on a case-by-case basis.

 

Finding a doctor

In the public sector, you need to see a general practitioner before going to a specialist. To this effect, Saudi Arabia has a three-tier structure in the following order:

  • Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) – there are about 2,000 of them across Saudi Arabia
  • Public hospitals
  • Specialist hospitals, such as the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre

Waiting times may apply. Alternatively, you might wish to get treatment in the private sector.

 

Finding a hospital

If you are looking for a public hospital in Saudi Arabia, look for one that is open to take on any patient.

Some public hospitals may be reserved for some categories of patients (e.g. the armed forces), and should therefore be avoided. Such hospitals will generally refuse to provide treatment to the public unless there is a crisis or an emergency.

 

Medicines

Most drugs in Saudi Arabia are available over-the-counter, either from pharmacies or from supermarkets. Some drugs, however, may require a prescription.

Others, such as tranquillisers, sleeping pills or anti-depressants, may even be completely prohibited. If you routinely need one of these drugs, you should contact the Saudi embassy before coming to Saudi Arabia in order to arrange permission for your medicines to be imported.

 

Remote areas

Unless you live in one of the 10 largest towns, you should expect to have to travel if you require continued or specialist access to healthcare services.

 

Gender segregation

Saudi Arabia is a very conservative society, with considerable segregation between men and women. However, most hospitals are both for men and women. Likewise, it is largely possible for a female to see a male doctor, or for a male to see a female doctor.

 

Pregnancy

In Saudi Arabia, hospital inpatient care for giving birth is generally covered by private health insurance policies. Prenatal and postnatal care should be covered as well.

Baby vaccinations may be provided free of charge.

 

Pregnancy, marriage and Saudi law

Be careful if you have any sexual intercourse in Saudi Arabia.

As mentioned above, Saudi Arabia is a very conservative society, and it strictly follows the Sharia. Sex outside of marriage is strictly prohibited, even among non-Muslim foreign nationals. You can do it without telling anybody, but you are already taking risks if you do so.

If, by any chance, you fall pregnant as a result of prohibited sex in Saudi Arabia, it’s best to leave Saudi Arabia as soon as possible.

 

Contraception in Saudi Arabia

Contraception devices are both permitted and widely available in Saudi Arabia.

 

Abortion in Saudi Arabia

Saudi law permits abortion only if:

  • Going ahead with the pregnancy may negatively impact the mother’s health
  • The husband permits it, and
  • Abortion is made within 120 days.

 

Contribute

We value input from our readers. If you spot an error on this page or have any suggestions, please let us know.

 

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