Provision of good health services remains a major task for most governments in the world today. As a result, there are strategies, which have been adopted over time to ensure that this task is achieved effectively through improvement of the entire healthcare sector.
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Whilst this is the case, many governments find it difficult to offer quality services to patients especially in cases where the cost exceeds the financial ability of individual patients.
As such, health providers find it hard to decide on how to offer quality services at a lower cost, in order to consider the economic status of patients (Plans-Rubió, 2012). These cases are common in most parts of the world including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, Africa and Asia.
This report will discuss the high cost of medical treatment, in relation to giving patients the priority to receive medical services. In order to achieve this task, the report mainly focuses on the situation in Saudi, where a good number of its people experience immense difficulties in sourcing quality medical services.
The report is further divided into concise segments, expounding the problem being discussed, causes and possible solutions that have to be adopted to facilitate accessibility to good medical treatment in the region.
High cost of medical treatment
Due to the high cost of living and the current economic crisis, many countries find it difficult to offer cost-effective and quality medical treatment to most of their citizens.
Like other countries in the world, Saudi Arabia has had its share in handling the high cost of medical services to its inhabitants (Almalki, Fitzgerald & Clark, 2011). In explaining this trend, it is equally important to underscore how the health sector is financed in the country.
Financing of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia is mainly public, with free services being offered in all public facilities. While the government has continued to support this sector to offer quality services, the truth of the matter is that, the amount allocated per capita has significantly dropped. This is mainly attributed to the fast-growing population coupled with decreasing revenue from the government.
Additionally, some analysts believe that duplication of services and unnecessary demand for these services greatly contributes to waste of resources.
Due to increasing healthcare cost and compromised quality, the government has adopted measures to tame the situation mainly through privatization of hospitals and introduction of health insurance cover for both citizens and foreigners living in the country (Plans-Rubió, 2012).
Low income-earners vs. treatments cost
As mentioned above, the cost of healthcare has been rising in recent years, a trend that has affected majority of Saudi Arabians. As a result, most people in the country are unable to afford these services, which are considered to be essential to human beings.
In addition, service providers find it hard in making the decision between saving the lives of people and compromising the quality of services due to their high cost (Almalki, Fitzgerald & Clark, 2011).
According to recent survey, the high cost of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia mainly affects low income-earners. This class of people comprises of millions of people, including the country’s citizens and foreigners.
Cancer and the costs of chemo therapy
Even though all medical procedures and services are costly, it is doubtless that critical cases of illnesses are always demanding. Treatment of cancer therefore falls under this category of health complications that are posing a major challenge to treat due to high cost associated with it.
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In particular, many people are unable to meet the cost for chemotherapy, a procedure that is widely known in cancer treatment (Oxford Business Group, 2008). When applied correctly, the procedure eliminates cancerous cells in a patient’s body.
Due to this, cancer treatment is becoming a burden to public hospitals since most patients cannot afford the treatment cost. Cancer drugs cost approximately $100,000 per year in Saudi Arabia and yet not all patients get treated.
Since treatment of most illnesses is free in Saudi Arabia, non-Saudis experience a wide range of challenges when looking for treatment. This is because the free medical program in the country excludes treatment of foreigners.
Affordability of healthcare services remains a major challenge to most people in the world. This is due to a number of issues including the current economic crisis, poor planning strategies and increasing population against limited resources.
Consequently, many countries experience several challenges, including the inability of some people to afford medical treatment (Oxford Business Group, 2008).
For instance, the carrying capacity for most hospitals and the low number of doctors, nurses and pharmacists negatively impact the health sector in most countries.
Due to low wages and inflation, the number of people who do not have medical insurance cover continues to increase in most parts of the world today. With most governments struggling to subsidize healthcare cost, low salaries and unemployment hamper these efforts since employers are required to pay a section of the total cost.
For example, only 84% of Americans have medical insurance, which requires their employers to cater for approximately 60% of the insurance cost.
Others are insured by the government, military, Medicare or Medicaid. In Saudi Arabia, the country has over 1.5 million doctors with the almost every citizen being able to access sanitation while more than 95% of the population has access to healthy water. Immunization rate has also gone up in the country, to an approximated value of 94% (Oxford Business Group, 2008).
Effects of Healthcare on the Economy
Despite the fact that there are significant strides that have been made by the ministry of health in Saudi Arabia, there are several challenges that have emerged. Most of these challenges negatively affect the country’s economy (Almalki, Fitzgerald & Clark, 2011).
Major obstacles revolve around health workforce, changing patterns of some diseases, accessibility of healthcare services, financing and expenditure and changing technology among other factors.
Due to the increasing population and the above listed challenges, the government is forced to invest heavily in the sector through hiring of more doctors and other health workers together with the expansion of existing health facilities.
Poor medical treatment quality
As a result of existing limitations in the ministry of health, the quality of services being offered has largely been compromised. This has led to serious and fatal results, where patients are prone to wrong procedures offered in various medical facilities.
Poor systems and deaths
It is obvious that accidents require urgent attention from medical experts. This is crucial in saving the life of patients who may be in critical conditions. However, there is divided attention among doctors due to the overwhelming number of patients to be attended to (Mansour, 2008).
The end result of this is low quality services, which may result into other complications. This situation is also worsened by poor systems applied in treatment of critical medical conditions.
Among all the associated effects, careless deaths are common in hospitals, resulting from poor services, poor systems and inadequate health attendants in hospitals.
This section of the report explores some of the causal factors associated with the above mentioned problems and challenges facing the ministry of health in Saudi Arabia.
Lack of governmental supervision
Governmental supervision of medical services in Saudi Arabia has immensely affected the quality of services being offered. It is highly limited by the fact that the ministry of health takes charge of all health services in the country.
As a result, some regions and public hospitals end up giving services, which have not been verified by government inspectors (Mansour, 2008).
This is likely to result into accidents, errors and careless deaths of patients. This management system of the ministry of health does not meet the needs of the ever-growing population of the nation.
Another cause of the above described problem is variation in prices charged by different public hospitals. While people would expect standard charges for medical services in hospitals, it is amazing that most health centers have different prices.
This affects service delivery and planning as the government cannot project its expenditure, stemming from inconsistency. In cases where low prices are charged, such hospitals may end up receiving low funding, thus compromising the quality of services being offered.
Low standards of treatment
Although Saudi Arabia prides on offering free medical services to its people, research reveals that some of the services given in public hospitals are of low standards. This puts majority of patients at the risk of being poorly served.
Poor treatment further emanates from the fact that the population of the country is ever-growing against limited resources (Wynbrandt, 2010).
This causes straining of resources including healthcare workers who have to work extra hours in order to serve all the patients. Moreover, the existence of too many non-value adding costs in the ministry of health contributes to poor service delivery.
In other words, the government spends on services that do not generate revenue for the state and does not support patient recovery.
The last cause of most of the challenges being experienced by Saudis ministry of health is lack of technology to handle many health complications in public hospitals. This results into several issues, which threaten the survival of patients, their ease to recover and the efficiency of doctors and other health workers.
For instance, lack of technology undermines diagnosis of diseases, resulting into poor medical procedures and prescription of drugs. Low level of technology further hampers handling of emergency cases especially when patients require intensive or specialized care.
There are several strategies, which can be adopted and implemented in order to reverse the current healthcare system in Saudi Arabia. This is quite necessary in controlling unnecessary deaths of patients and in improving the overall delivery of medical treatment services. These remedies are broadly divided into two categories:
As mentioned above, the ministry of health heavily spends on treatment services and expenses that largely contribute to the high cost of healthcare, which becomes unaffordable to most people (Walker, 2009).
This unnecessary expenditure further affects the quality of services offered, due to lack of priority within the management. These costs should therefore be eliminated to allow more resource allocation towards the improvement of healthcare services.
Of great significance is also the reengineering of the healthcare system to meet current demand in the market. This can be achieved through optimum staffing, acquisition of relevant equipment and medicine and improvement of medical procedures. This ensures that the needs of hospitals and patients are met based on existing situations (Plans-Rubió, 2012).
Availability of alternative medication is also essential in meeting the needs of different patients depending on their source of income and the ability to meet related costs. As such, low income-earners are given a chance to go for medical treatment without straining their resources (Walston, Al-Harbi & Al-Omar, 2008).
Additionally, an appropriate bill is supposed to be enacted and implemented in order to address existing challenges and expected future trends in the healthcare system.
In reforming the healthcare system of Saudi Arabia, the government has a role to play in ensuring that quality services are delivered affordably.
Firstly, insurance companies should be encouraged to offer medical cover to citizens through payment of premiums by individuals. This would lessen the burden of national medical coverage.
Besides insurance, the government ought to appreciate changing technology through the adoption of emerging trends like the use of nanotechnology in the treatment of cancer and other diseases (Walston, Al-Harbi & Al-Omar, 2008).
Setting of standards in hospitals is equally important especially in regulation of treatment price and the quality of services being offered. This can be well implemented through hiring of enough government supervisors and quality assurers. Lastly, the adoption of Affordable Care Act (ACA) is important to streamline the sector.
Recommendations and Conclusion
From the above report, it is obvious that the quality and cost effectiveness remain major factors affecting several healthcare systems in the world. Due to high cost of living and inflation, most people are unable to afford quality medical treatment.
Additionally, governments are not capable of providing affordable and good medical services to customers due to limited resources and increased population among other factors. Nevertheless, thorough reforms are necessary in Saudis healthcare system in order to provide quality services to its people.
Almalki, M., Fitzgerald, G., & Clark, M. (2011). Health care system in Saudi Arabia: an overview. Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 17(10), 784-793.
Mansour, A. (2008). Factors affecting locational decisions of Saudi health care professionals. Michigan: ProQuest.
Oxford Business Group. (2008). The Report: Saudi Arabia 2008. London: The Report: Saudi Arabia 2008.
Plans-Rubió, P. (2012). Frameworks to Set Priorities for Treatments Based on Cost-Effectiveness and Equity. The Open Pharmaco-economics & Health Economics Journal, 4, 1-7.
Walker, L. (2009). The right to health in Saudi Arabia. University of Aberdeen. Retrieved from https://www.abdn.ac.uk/
Walston, S., Al-Harbi, Y., & Al-Omar, B. (2008). The changing face of healthcare in Saudi Arabia. Ann Saudi Med, 28 (4), 243-250.
Wynbrandt, J. (2010). A Brief History of Saudi Arabia. New York City: Facts On File.