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Saudi Arabia - Health Service
Most ailments contracted by expats in Saudi Arabia are caused by the abrupt change of environment. Summers can be extremely hot and cause sunburn or heat stroke. Dehydration is another potential problem which, if prolonged, may cause other health issues. High humidity topped with the heat may also increase stress levels, which lowers one's immune system. Dusty winds from sandstorms can also cause respiratory problems.
The Saudi Arabian government has invested extensively in the healthcare system of its region. Public medical care is available to all local people, including expats. Public hospitals are either military owned, government-funded or run by non-profits such as religious organizations.
All migrants moving to Saudi Arabia for work or pleasure are advised to have health insurance. You are required by law to have medical cover even when public hospitals are at your disposal. This will come in handy if you require special medical attention that cannot be offered in the any of the Saudi Arabian Hospitals.
Fortunately, public hospitals in Saudi Arabia are well-equipped and have highly trained staff. You can receive treatment in public health facilities as long as you work in the public sector. Tourists can also receive treatment in public hospitals.
All public hospitals in the major cities provide medical treatment that matches the standards of Western hospitals. Every hospital you go to will have professional staff operating state-of-the-art equipment to diagnose and treat patients. Saudi public hospitals have doctors and nurses who speak both Arabic and English. Therefore, you should be able to explain to a doctor how you are feeling and even buy the required medication without experiencing any problem.
Public hospitals treat patients on a first-come-first-served basis. If you want to make an appointment to see a specific doctor, you have to do so 24 to 72 hours in advance. Appointments made via phone calls can take a while to be approved. Wherever you can, go to a hospital in person to ensure you are booked for a session.
Most established hospitals in the big cities have medical services that match international standards. Here is a list of hospitals that provide top-notch healthcare service to both locals and expats.
• King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital in Riyadh. Hotline number is 966-1-482-1234
• Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Jeddah. Hotline number is 966-2-665-2600
• King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh. Hotline number is 966-1-464-7272
• King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh. Hotline number is 966-1-252-008
• King Fahad Hospital in Jeddah. Hotline number is 966-2-665-6436
• King Khaled University Hospital in Guraiger, South West Saudi Arabia. Hotline number is 966-1-467-0011
• Security Forces Hospital in Riyadh. Hotline number is 966-1-477-4480
All public hospitals are required to register their numbers in public telephone directories like the Yellow Pages. You can also ask for recommendations from relatives or fellow expats living in Saudi Arabia.
The private health service in Saudi Arabia is run by international organizations, often from English speaking nations. Private hospitals provide quality medical care. However, they also go a notch higher by providing special treatment you may not find in a government-funded hospital.
Patients can make appointments whenever they need, or walk in and see a doctor when necessary. You can also change doctors to a more qualified one, or one who specializes in your specific ailment. Private hospitals also have more advanced facilities, including airlifting choppers and ambulances with fast response to emergencies.
The only downside of private hospitals is their high costs. It is only advisable to receive treatment in a private hospital if you have medical cover. Otherwise, the public hospitals in Saudi Arabia will suffice for day-to-day medical attention.
Clinics are mainly run by general practitioners. They can be found everywhere from big cities to remote villages. Saudi clinics are also staffed by professional, English speaking doctors and feature top-notch equipment. Clinics only handle general procedures such as checkups and minor surgeries that do not require high-tech equipment.
Mission hospitals were the first to be established in Saudi Arabia. These hospitals are the most subsidized, provide quality care, and cater to everyone. The current mission hospitals available in the Gulf State are American-owned. They used to provide free health care. Although they now charge, the rates are reasonably low compared to other hospitals.
Military hospitals are established to cater to the military personnel in Saudi Arabia. These hospitals are also well-equipped and have medical personnel that are qualified and certified by the ministry of health in Saudi Arabia. Today, Saudi military hospitals also welcome non-military patients to receive treatment at an affordable cost.
As at home, you will be able to buy medication from pharmacies in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government has put in place strict regulations that ban the importation of certain drugs including anti-depressants, tranquillizers or sleeping pills into the country. Anyone caught with these items at the airport faces serious consequences, so collect your prescriptions in the country.
Pharmacies in Saudi Arabia are privately owned and well-stocked. Most pharmacies open from 9.30am and close at 1pm every weekday. Other pharmacies will open at 4.30pm and close later, around 10.30pm. Hospital pharmacies often remain open for 24 hours.
Ambulance services are provided by the Saudi police or government hospitals. The hotline number for hospital ambulances is 997 anywhere in the Gulf State. There are plenty of ambulances in the big cities as well as the rural regions, and the response time is relatively fast.
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