Since the modern state of Saudi Arabia was first founded by King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud (God rest his soul), public health and disease control were among the government’s top priorities. The creation of the Kingdom’s healthcare system coincided with King Abdul Aziz’s takeover of Al Hijaz and his designation of Mecca as the first Saudi capital.
The guidance of the founding King of Saudi Arabia allowed the new government to overcome the many obstacles and challenges in the early days of the nation, despite a lack of native resources and expertise. HRH’s strategy was to strengthen the Kingdom’s cooperation with world organizations and to collaborate with highly-qualified foreign experts. In addition to keeping pace with the latest international healthcare developments, the King also focused on building a strong infrastructure for a comprehensive health sector that would serve all regions of the Kingdom.
In 1343H/1925, King Abdul Aziz established the Public Health Department in Makkah. In 1344H\1925, Public Health and Ambulance was established to meet the needs of the Kingdom’s health and environmental sectors. The PHA built hospitals and health centers across the Kingdom and issued and enforced regulations to guarantee adequate standards for the practicing of medicine and pharmacology.
The increasing scope of healthcare services needed in the Kingdom during that period, including care for Hajj and Umrah performers, created the need for the formation of a Public Health Council. This council was the highest-level supervisory board in the Kingdom, and oversaw all aspects of healthcare, including all hospitals and healthcare centers nationwide. The council’s main goals included the development of a skilled healthcare workforce, as well as the control of the diseases and epidemics which were prevalent during that time.
Eventually, it was necessary to create a large-scaled, specialized organization to carry out the Kingdom’s health affairs. Royal decree Num. 8697\11\5 was issued on 26-8-1370H \ 1915 and established the Ministry of Health. With the establishment of the Ministry, King Abdul Aziz’s early vision of modern national healthcare services was well on its way towards becoming a reality.
- Patient first
- Honesty and transparency
- Initiative and productivity
- Societal involvement
The Ministry of Health Strategy for the next ten years (1431-1440) is coherent and consistent with the healthcare strategy in the Kingdom, ratified by the Council of Ministers\' resolution No. (320), dated 17/9/1430, corresponding to 7/9/2009. Since the beginning of development plans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 40 years ago, the improvement of healthcare services provided to the Saudi citizens was a strategic option adopted by the Leadership. This huge interest in developing healthcare is embodied and manifested in Article 31 of The Basic Law of Saudi Arabia, “the State shall protect public health and provide healthcare to every citizen”. In addition, this was also under the Eighth Development Plans, consisting of one concept; providing healthcare that meets the needs of the population in all over the Kingdom.
The Ministry has set this strategy, taking into consideration all the elements that would achieve the future vision in line with the development accomplished in health services sector around the world. In addition, the strategy is consistent with the roles played by the Ministry; the assigned authority to provide health services to the citizens, in addition to its responsibility of oversight and supervision of private sector facilities, as well as the development of legislation, rules and regulations for the provision of healthcare services to the citizens and residents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This strategy comes in response to a series of major challenges facing the healthcare sector in various countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia. There is a huge new level of awareness among service recipients and their health education, in addition to a high level of expectations of better health services that can be accessed easily in accordance with high quality standards. The health sector is also witnessing many challenges worldwide, such as the high costs of health services resulting from the accelerating development of medical technologies in hardware, equipment tools and advanced and expensive medical technologies, as well as the unremitting discoveries of new expensive drugs.
In addition, there are many other reasons for the rising demand for health care services, including the prevalence of chronic diseases, the diagnostic and therapeutic long term expensive care services, the increase of health awareness in the society, in addition to the increased demand for periodic checkup, risk factors monitoring and early disease detection and so on.
Through the current strategic plan, the Ministry of Health has implemented modern methodologies in providing health care services that makes the health system completely devoted to patients, or, in other words, a patient-centered health care system aiming to meet patients’ health needs in the right place at the right time. This covers everything starting from primary health care till specialized therapeutic services in a professional manner, preserving all patients’ rights, such as the right to know about their condition, the right to know the different treatment options, the right to choose their physician, and the right to be always treated with care and respect. These aspects didn\'t get a lot of attention in the past, but they are now one of the strategy’s main objectives. The Ministry of Health strategy has adopted the integrated and comprehensive health care approach as a method of providing services, and implemented it through the MOH’s Integrated and Comprehensive National Healthcare Project.
The MOH strategy includes other important aspects, such as health insurance, and the programs dedicated to study the role of cooperative health insurance, and considering including new segments of the community in it. It also includes the need to conduct studies on MOH hospitals in the future in terms of privatization, the best management and operation practices, in accordance with the principles of economics, cost calculation, diversification of funding sources, and the optimal use of resources.
Nevertheless, huge health documents, articles, studies and research were used in preparing this strategy, in addition to numerous personal interviews and workshops, as well as the observations and suggestions filed to the Ministry from several bodies.