Saudi Arabia will need to build an additional 5,000 beds by 2020 as the kingdom’s population continues to grow rapidly.
According to a recent report by Knight Frank, the kingdom will need 20,000 beds by 2035, based on the current density of beds, and to keep pace with the demand of a younger population.
Healthcare facilities in the Holy and economic cities are lower than the national average and significantly lower than the global average, the report notes.
Based on the global average of bed density, Saudi Arabia was faced with a gap of 14,000 beds in 2016 and this gap is expected to widen to 40,000 beds by 2035.
Dr Gireesh Kumar, senior manager, healthcare at Knight Frank, said: “Over the next decade, population dynamics are forecast to shift with a significant increase in the population over 40.
“This indicates an expected increase in the burden of lifestyle diseases and the associated co-morbidities which would trigger an upsurge in demand for highly specialised medical and surgical care in the kingdom.”
Saudi’s economic cities, which includes Jeddah and Riyadh, have better healthcare infrastructure than the rest of the country and host patients from the other parts of the kingdom.
Lower infrastructure density and the existing strain on healthcare resources, however, present opportunities for additional beds, centres of excellences, specialised and niche healthcare services commonly found in developed metropolises.
The kingdom’s holy cities are seen as less developed with private healthcare facilities often classified as basic with potential for upgrade.
Nevertheless, several government-driven initiatives are now changing the dynamics of the sector and contributing in reshaping the healthcare landscape in Saudi by “creating a stronger institutional set-up and effective regulatory frameworks” to promote more private sector investment.
One such initiative is the roll-out of mandatory health insurance to private sector employees in Saudi Arabia, which took place in various stages since the early 2000s.
Shehzad Jamal, partner at Knight Frank, said: “Healthcare is undergoing a transformation phase – long term view and thorough research must to be taken while investing in the sector to ensure investments match current and forecasted demand.”