Chronic bed shortage in state-run hospitals
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Saudi Gazette report
SHORTAGE of beds in government hospitals is one of the major problems facing the Kingdom's health sector. In many instances, patients have to use their influence or the help of middlemen to get admitted to a specialist hospital in the country.
The condition of public hospitals in small towns and villages is lamentable, as they do not have enough facilities, doctors, nurses and paramedical staff. These hospitals are forced to transfer patients suffering from major diseases to specialist public hospitals elsewhere.
Ali Aseeri said his mother has been suffering from various heart-related problems, in addition to an inflammation in the gallbladder. "She visits the emergency room almost every day to receive painkillers. Over time, her condition went from bad to worse," he said.
Aseeri's mother requires specialized treatment and should be admitted to a hospital for diagnosis, medical checkup and analysis under the supervision of specialists and consultants.
"Unfortunately we could not find a single vacant bed in a specialist government hospital. As a result we have to take her to the emergency room to give her painkillers," he added.
"Every house in the Kingdom suffers due to the shortage of beds at public hospitals. Patients are forced to wait for weeks and sometimes for months to get specialized treatment despite their need for quick intervention," Aseeri told Al-Riyadh Arabic daily.
He said delaying surgery for patients suffering from chronic ailments is dangerous and unacceptable. "The government should find a solution for this problem. The continuation of the present situation would push patients to danger," he added.
Ibrahim Al-Shaukani spoke about a relative involved in a road crash. The accident victim was taken to a hospital that lacked the advanced facilities needed to provide him with the required treatment. They contacted a major hospital but it did not have a vacant bed to admit him.
His relatives were then forced to take him to a private hospital. The family was unable to pay the bill due to its poor financial condition. Later, relatives and philanthropists helped them foot the bill.
"In order to solve this problem the government should open big medical cities, which it had announced earlier. It will solve many problems in the healthcare sector," Al-Shaukani said.
He said the Health Ministry has done a lot to improve healthcare services across the country. "But its services should not stop there. More projects should be carried out to meet the growing need," Al-Shaukani told Al-Riyadh.
Ibrahim Al-Mufreh spoke about a heart patient, who requires catheterization operation within a few days. But he is still lying in the emergency department of Asir General Hospital, waiting for a vacant bed at the cardiology department.
"All public hospitals in major cities and governorates should be provided with necessary departments to provide specialized treatment to reduce pressure on specialist hospitals in the country," Al-Mufreh explained. He also called for the establishment of new medical cities and increasing the number of beds at existing hospitals.
The dearth of hospital beds is caused by poor management of resources, he said, adding that the administration in charge of hospital beds should be held responsible for the shortage. The government for years had made huge allocations for healthcare in the national budget, he added.
"We should not cite the increase in population as an excuse for falling healthcare services," Al-Mufreh said, adding that the ministry and its officials should have set out advanced planning to meet the healthcare needs of an increasing population.
Saeed Al-Ahmary, spokesman for Asir Health Affairs, said his organization has instructed public hospitals to provide maximum care for patients, especially accident victims.
There are 20 public hospitals with a total of 2,408 beds in Asir and they serve 2.28 million people living in the region.
"After completing renovation work at Asir Central Hospital, we will focus on increasing beds at all hospitals in the region," Al-Ahmary added.