Saudi Arabia has announced a new five-year healthcare plan, which will see the setting up of 121 new hospitals and the renovations of a further 66, it was reported on Thursday.
The announcement was made by Dr Muhammad Khasheem, deputy minister for planning and development at the Saudi Health Ministry, during the opening of a new training programme for laboratory staff in Riyadh.
Khasheem said the new facility and the five-year plan were part of the Ministry’s aim to improve healthcare in the kingdom.
“We want to improve the standard of our workers in order to provide better services,” he told the Arab News.
The news comes as it was reported in May Saudi Arabia would need more than 41,000 new hospital beds over the next four years to cope to cope with escalating demand from a rapidly growing population.
More than $18bn has been committed to Saudi Arabia's healthcare construction over the next five years but industry insiders are questioning whether new hospitals and other healthcare facilities will be delivered quickly enough.
The commitment includes the construction and equipping of primary healthcare centres, the building of 120 new hospitals and the upgrade of four existing hospitals.
A National Commercial Bank report said the hospital beds-to-population ratio over the past 10 years had declined to 2.2 beds per 1,000 citizens at the end of 2009.
To achieve the required ratio of 3.5 beds per 1,000 people by 2014 will require an additional 41,600 hospital beds, almost doubling the current number of 55,000.
It said population growth and increasing life expectancy were among key factors driving healthcare demand in the country. The study also showed life expectancy for Saudis is now 73 years of age, up nine percent in the last two decades.
Nour Soliman, summit director, IQPC, organiser of Saudi Construction Summit, said: "Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's largest economy and fastest growing population, will face a sharp increase in healthcare demand over the next decade and beyond.
"Various factors such as high birth rates, increasing rates of non-communicable diseases including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other obesity-related illnesses will add pressure on healthcare services."
Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.