My family, like most families in Saudi Arabia, have had to look after elderly loved ones, going through the ultimate decision of moving bed-bound relatives from hospitals to either homes or specialized long-term medical centers.
It is a well-known fact that most patients can be discharged from a hospital in days or weeks. However, many patients occupy hospital beds for months, or even years unnecessarily.
Patient overstays have exhausted hospital resources, which costs the government money and manpower.
The Kingdom’s population has reached over 33 million people, with those over 60 representing 4.5 percent of the population. This percentage is expected to increase, reaching approximately 8.7 percent by 2025. Most common geriatric health issues are chronic disease, pressure ulcers, falls, delirium and some psychiatric illnesses, including dementia. The most prevalent cause of death among the elderly is hypertension, followed by diabetes.
Long-term medical facilities can provide care to patients that require long hospital stays with minimum medical care, which can be a great solution for overcrowded government hospitals.
Vision 2030 is aiming to optimize, and better utilize, the capacity of hospital care centers and enhance the quality of therapeutic health care services. The government is encouraging the private sector to increase participation in health care initiatives; a few facilities in key cities across the country have been meeting the demands, but there plenty more that other centers could be doing.
The Saudi government is placing emphasis on the health care sector, and has allocated a substantial budget to it in 2019, amounting to SR172 billion ($46.3 billion). Furthermore, the Ministry of Finance has been approving soft loans, provided conditions are met, for private medical establishments including multi-disciplined health facilities.
The current situation presents a need as well as an opportunity for the development of long-term care facilities in the Kingdom. This is an investment opportunity which has a captive audience, and can secure agreements from day one.
As stated in previous articles on this subject, there is a long way to go for the Saudi health care sector to mature. From creating private medical establishments and privatizing public ones to consolidating fragmented polyclinics while exploring the unlimited potential of e-health, I strongly believe that health care, including long-term care facilities, is one of the most promising sectors in the country.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.
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