Following the success of Global Healthcare Issues, we’re pleased to bring you the final part in our new series - Global Healthcare Sectors.
Throughout these articles we’ve aimed to guide you through the structure behind the healthcare sectors we most frequently deal with. We’ve look at the private and public sectors, what positions are especially in demand, the funding models, and how to go about successfully securing a move.
In the final installment in our exclusive series we’ll look at one of the world’s most unique locations. A country that is certainly not for everyone, yet seems to attract a constant stream of interested medics - The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi has often been popular with expats looking for a financially rewarding move. The conservative desert Kingdom has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the oil boom, with high, tax free salaries attracting plenty of medics to it. Despite the high salaries life can be difficult, especially for Western people and non-Muslims. Life outside the compounds can be restrictive, and this can be troublesome for many people to adapt to.
Where am I likely to work?
Saudi Arabia is a vast country, stretching all the way from the Red Sea to the Gulf. At over 750,000 square miles it is the world’s 13th largest country, whilst it is home to just over 31 million people.
Despite it’s vast size it’s relatively easy to pinpoint where you will be working. There are three main locations that appeal to expat workers, and provide a high quality of facility for them to work in. The capital city of Riyadh is the first, with the metropolis being home to plenty of modern developments, whilst retaining it’s historic feel.
Also popular is the port city of Jeddah, which is slightly less conservative than the capital, and is home to some excellent public and private hospitals. Al Jubail in the Eastern Province is also growing in popularity with medics, with its even more relaxed lifestyle, and easy commute to Qatar, making it popular amongst expats looking for Saudi salaries, with a more relaxed way of life.
What Sector will I be working in?
The majority of hospitals in Saudi Arabia are operated by the Ministry of Health. It runs 220 throughout the country as well as over 1900 healthcare centres. Care is provided free of charge at the point of need, and this covers everything from GP appointments to specialist, complex surgery.
There are obviously a few notable differences, most notably who the MOH care for. The Ministry of Health has 3 sub departments who care for separate groups of the population, running separate hospitals, clinics and health centres. These are MODA, MOI and SANG hospitals.
MODA hospitals care for those in the Ministry of Defence and Aviation, MOI for those employed in the interior ministry and SANG facilities are for those in the Saudi National Guard.
Jeddah’s King Fahd Armed Forces Hospital is an example of such a facility, and it is one of the biggest clients we work with. Dealing mainly with members of the military and their families, it also works with civilians on an emergency basis.
The private sector meanwhile is continually expanding, with big groups like NMC investing in the Kingdom. Plans are in place to try and move the country on from being an oil driven economy and, as a result, incentives have been created to entice foreign investment into the healthcare sector.
How Generous is Healthcare Spending?
Ministry of Health facilities are well funded, and in 2016 received around 104bnSR (£21.6bn) from the state, whilst investment in private facilities is growing exponentially. Last year NMC spent an estimated $200m investing in the Kingdom, and that figure only looks like being mirrored by their rivals.
Wages meanwhile remain hugely attractive. A consultant can expect to earn between 55,000 and 60,000SR per month, tax free, this adds up to almost £130,000 per year. On top of this accommodation or an allowance is occasionally provided within a secure compound, whilst flights to and from the country as well as health insurance are also commonly included.
40 days paid leave per annum, as well as time for leave to speak at seminars and conduct research are commonplace, whilst an education allowance may also be provided for any children moving with you.
Working as a medic in Saudi Arabia can therefore be more financially rewarding than almost anywhere in the world. Especially when you factor in the relatively modest cost of living in the Desert Kingdom.
What Will I Need?
For a consultant’s role in the Kingdom employers will look for certain board accreditation or fellowships, with their preferences being those who are American, Canadian, British or Arab board certified. Don’t be dispirited if your certification is not listed however, as they regularly accept candidates who are certified by other countries, if they have the relevant experience and an impressive CV.
Experience is always necessary, with five years normally the minimum accepted. This can vary depending on the role however, and so may not be the case for every job opening. Fluency in English is essential, whilst a knowledge of Arabic could also play a major role in securing you the perfect role.
Who is Especially in Demand?
Obesity, and the various lifestyle related diseases associated with it, plague the Gulf region, and Saudi Arabia is no exception. The country faces a massive battle against unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise and so, as a direct consequence, there is a high demand for cardiologists, endocrinologists and bariatricians.
Aside from the country’s weight issue, Saudi’s dusty climate and relatively high smoking rates have worked together to raise the demand for respiratory specialists. Psychiatry jobs are also set to grow in availability - as the stigma stifling mental health begins to lift.
Finally Saudi Arabia has the world’s 6th highest rate of kidney disease, and so opportunities for Nephrologists are opening up fairly regularly.