Khaled Almaeena
Khaled Almaeena

Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for Transformation Dr. Rashed Al-Kawan has denied the possibility of the privatization of government hospitals and said that they will be transformed into government companies. He also focused on the lack of Saudi health cadre and said that it is the responsibility not only of the ministry, but also of society as a whole with all its institutions.

The question arises as to why this statement was made. The Ministry of Health itself has been the subject of great criticism and over the years, reports of poor services, malpractice and shoddy performance and safety that have resulted in death have been reported in mainstream and social media. Moreover, for many years, there have also been reports of the low caliber of the ministry’s employees. Turning these same hospitals into government companies run by the same employees will not serve any purpose. It is like putting old juice in new jugs.

What is needed is a total revamp of the ministry’s working culture and the introduction of innovative ideas that fall within the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

Let us not point the finger at the wrong place. The privatization of hospital is a must. It will relieve the government of a large budget, some of which goes to waste, and it will reduce corruption and increase efficiency. The job of a government is to govern and not run hospitals, malls or shops. Moreover, for years, we were happy building huge hospitals while forgetting the basic premise of health care – the primary one. Instead of having dispensaries and small clinics in villages and towns, we went all out for specialized hospitals, which are, of course, needed, but should be the road of last resort.

An Asian doctor said if you treat a flu patient in time you avoid bronchitis and then pneumonia that then requires an ICU unit and attention costing the state a lot of money. And many similar diseases can be used as examples, such as diabetes where prevention, managing and containment can be done at small clinics.

The Ministry of Health should be a regulatory body that monitors and insures that health industry standards are maintained. And to do that you need qualified, honest, God-fearing bureaucrats who will not act as obstacles or stand in the way of prospective investors. We do not want statements. We want investor-oriented reforms, simplification of permit clearance, technological innovation and commitment to excellence.

Above all, health ministry officials should know that they should part with the old ways and display excellence in governance and have a deep unwavering commitment to innovation.

They should be facilitators and to do that they should think in a modern way.

— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena