Saudi Arabia plugging the gap in long-term care, treatment for the elderly - report

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Saudi Arabia is working to open several hospitals and long-term care facilities in the Kingdom as the country works to tackle critical bed shortages and to meet the needs of its growing and aging population, experts said.

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An in-depth report on health care in the Kingdom, lays out how, by 2030, Saudi Arabia needs an additional 22,000 long-term care and rehabilitative hospital beds, to cope with the rising number of geriatric patients, those suffering with lifestyle-related conditions that require long-terms care, such as Type 2 diabetes, and an increased life expectancy.

However, to achieve average standards set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Saudi Arabia actually needs about 30,000 additional beds by 2030, said Mansoor Ahmed, director for health care, education and PPP at advisory firm Colliers International, that just published a report on health care in the Kingdom.

The report titled “Long-term care (LTC), rehabilitation and home care in Saudi Arabia” has been released to Al Arabiya English by Colliers International.

Ahmed said the COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight the importance of having enough long-term hospital beds throughout the Kingdom and said the rising number of acute-care patients is creating a burden on existing health care facilities.

He said patients who could be better served in long-term care and rehabilitation facilities occupy an estimated 20 to 30 percent of public hospital beds in the Kingdom.

But the Kingdom, under its Vision 2020 reforms, has plans to boost the number of specialized healthcare facilities in the country, Ahmed said. Further, they plan to add another 1,000 hospital beds for long-term care patients in the country.

Saudi Arabia will open a 200-bed long-term care and rehabilitation hospital focusing on pulmonary care in the capital and a 400-bed general, maternity, and pediatric care hospital in north Riyadh. In the King Saud Hospital Complex in Riyadh, a 200-bed general hospital and 200-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility will be constructed.

Under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, the country is going through fundamental structural changes in all the sectors – including health care.

Ahmed said long-term care (LTC), rehabilitation and home care are among the main focal points for diversification and enhancement of the health care system in the Kingdom. A key driver is the changing demographic profile through increased life expectancy.

Saudi Arabia, with a current estimated population of approximately 35 million, as of November 2020, is the largest country in the GCC, according to the report. And the percent of total population above 60 years is expected to increase from 5.5 percent in 2020 to 11 percent by 2030.

“This shift will have a significant impact on disease patterns and the type of healthcare services required,” said Ahmed. “As almost 80 percent of a person’s healthcare requirements typically occur after the age of 60 years, this will increase the demand for long-term care, rehabilitation and home care.

“This is especially true in the case of Saudi Arabia with its high prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases including diabetes, coronary and obesity-related illnesses.”

Ahmed added that the Ministry of Health, for the past five years, have spent close to $71 billion over five years, in line with the government’s Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP).

“Last November, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) announced the implementation of a uniform model for elderly care in the GCC nation in cooperation with the private and non-profit sectors,” said Ahmed.

“In Colliers’ opinion, this initiative is likely to improve the efficiency and quality of services provided to the elderly in the Kingdom with better utilization of tertiary care, LTC, and rehab facilities.”

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