More medical cities needed to end rural patients’ suffering

More medical cities needed to end rural patients’ suffering

Healthcare disparities


DESPITE the advanced medical infrastructure and extensive healthcare services provided all over the country, the Kingdom needs to construct more medical cities in governorates and cities where patients suffer from chronic diseases that are difficult to treat.

Most patients, especially elderly and children, who live in remote areas currently have to go through great pains to reach large hospitals or medical cities located in urban areas. Deterred by the cost and time of travelling to a hospital along with the problems of arranging accommodation, many end up delaying treatment. Al-Riyadh daily reports on the struggles of Saudi Arabia’s rural patients.

Dr. Sami Abdulkareem, chairman of the health committee at Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said patients in rural areas encounter difficulties getting proper medical treatment. He urged the government to speed up construction of more medical cities to give greater access to healthcare for people living in remote areas.

“It is important that the Ministry of Health ensures all regions have an equal share of hospitals and medical cities, which can provide comprehensive and inclusive services to patients who suffer from severe and chronic conditions,” he added.

Shayeh Fahad with his disabled son lives in a small town 600 kilometers away from Riyadh. He says the 1,200-kilometer trip by car to get treatment for his son is both time-consuming and costly.
“My son has been disabled since he was a child and we have to travel over 1,200 kilometers back and forth every month and sometimes on a weekly basis. It is getting really difficult for us to keep up with his hospital appointments,” he said.

Citizen Sultan Ali suffers from renal failure. Like Shayeh, he lives in a remote village several hours from Riyadh, and has to make the long journey to the capital city to receive dialysis at a medical city.

Dr. Faisal Shaheen, director of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, said 4,551 people were added to the list of renal failure patients this year. The Kingdom has 213 dialysis units and 6,560 dialysis machines.

“The capabilities of some medical cities should be increased to meet the needs of the rising number of chronic condition patients. All medical cities should be capable of performing liver, heart, lung and pancreas transplantations just like King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah. We hope that the medical cities being built will be completed soon,” he said.

A royal decree issued in 2012 said four new medical cities will be constructed while the services of current medical cities will be expanded. The new projects include King Faisal Medical Service City to serve the southern regions, Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz Medical City in the northern region, King Abdullah Medical City in the western region, and King Khalid Medical City in the Eastern Province. The total bed capacity of all four medical cities exceeds 5,000. The projects are being implemented according to global standards and all four medical cities will have all major specializations.

According to the Ministry of Health, the costs of the projects are being considered and the possibility of implementing the projects as part of a unique partnership between the private and public sectors is being studied.