The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) is the major government agency entrusted with the provision of preventive, curative and rehabilitative healthcare for the Kingdom’s population. The Ministry provides primary healthcare (PHC) services through a network of healthcare centres (comprising 1,925 centres) throughout the kingdom. It also adopts the referral system which provides curative care for all members of society from the level of general practitioners at health centres to advanced technology specialist curative services through a broad base of general and specialist hospitals (220 hospitals). The MOH is considered the lead Government agency responsible for the management, planning, financing and regulating of the healthcare sector. The MOH also undertakes the overall supervision and follow-up of healthcare related activities carried out by the private sector. Therefore, the MOH can be viewed as a national health service (NHS) for the entire population.
There are also three other mini-NHS which finance and deliver primary, secondary and tertiary care to specific enrolled security and armed forces populations:
• the Ministry of Defence and Aviation (MODA);
• the Ministry of Interior (MOI); and
• the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG).
In addition to these agencies, there are several autonomous government agencies which are responsible for the delivery and financing of healthcare services in Saudi Arabia. The Ministry of Education provides immediate primary healthcare to students. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs operates institutions for the mentally retarded and custodial homes for orphans. These facilities provide their guests a certain amount of medical care. The General Organization for Social Insurance and General Presidency of Youth Welfare provide health services for certain categories of the population in connection with its management of sport facilities. The Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu provides health facilities for employees and residents at the two industrial cities – Jubail and Yanbu. The Saudi Arabian Airlines operates its own healthcare facilities with the aim of providing healthcare services to its employees. Saudi Arabia’s universities provide, through their medical colleges or hospitals, specialist curative services and medical education and training programs, while they also conduct health research in collaboration with other research centres.
The Government also finances and provides care on a referral basis in its major specialised national tertiary care referral hospitals King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center and King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital. The King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center uses highly advanced technologies and act as a reference hospital for cases that require advanced and specialist treatment, while it also conducts research on health issues in general and those related to Saudi Arabia in particular. The King Khalid Eye Specialist Hospital is designed to be a large health facility offering high quality specialised services for ophthalmology and eye surgery and medicine as well as being a regional research centre in the area of ophthalmology. The hospital also has a cornea bank in which imported corneas are stored.
The Saudi Red Crescent Society undertakes an important and effective role in providing emergency services at the pre-hospital stage, either at the scene of accidents or during the transportation of patients to hospitals. The society also undertakes a unique task by providing such services for pilgrims during the Haj and Umrah at the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina.
Moreover, the private sector provides health services through its health facilities including hospitals, dispensaries, laboratories, pharmacies and physiotherapy centres throughout Saudi Arabia.