Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Saudi government looks to PPP to fill gap in long-term care provision

Knight Frank Report says shortfall for acute care is at least 9,000 beds

Saudi Araiba only has one long-term care bed per 130,000 people. Getty Images
Saudi Araiba only has one long-term care bed per 130,000 people. Getty Images

A shortfall of suitable long-term healthcare facilities in Saudi Arabia presents opportunities for private sector providers to build a strong presence in the kingdom, according to a new report.

The country only has one long-term care (LTC) bed per 130,000 people, compared to one per 10,000 in the United States and one per 1,000 in Germany, Knight Frank’s latest Healthcare in Saudi Arabia study found.

“The demand for LTC beds is a kingdom-wide concern," Dr Gireesh Kumar, a senior manager of Knight Frank’s healthcare and education consultancy division, told The National. "Currently, the larger share of the LTC beds are in cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh. Going forward, the demand will increase in second tier cities to be able to provide wider access for patients and reduce costs for the government."

Knight Frank’s study said about 9,000 beds meant for acute care are blocked by long-term care patients, representing unmet demand for long-term facilities.

“According to leading healthcare operators, the unmet demand is higher and their estimate is in the range of 12,000 to 15,000 beds,” the report said.

The government is seeking private sector investment for extended care and rehabilitation provision, and is looking to introduce up to 2,000 new beds via public-private partnership.

As yet, the Ministry of Health has not released a tender for this project, but “the government has already been engaged with the private sector on various PPP models of payment”, Dr Kumar said.

“Key government organisations such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, etc, have been the prominent payers for extended care patients currently catered to by the private sector,” he said.

Demand for long-term care is likely to become much more pronounced given the kingdom’s demographics and lifestyle.

“Between 2018 to 2035, the population above the age of 60 years is expected to grow by three times, which indicates that the burden of chronic and degenerative diseases will increase, creating additional demand for LTC beds in an overburdened long-term care sector in Saudi Arabia,” Dr Kumar said. “In addition, the growing volume of lifestyle diseases among the younger generation in Saudi Arabia is also expected to further bolster this gap for LTC beds.”

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia

One of the companies looking to bridge the gap in long-term healthcare in Saudi Arabia is Abu Dhabi's NMC Healthcare, which has a joint venture with Hassana Investment Company, a division of the country's General Organisation for Social Insurance. The pair signed a 6 billion Saudi riyals (Dh5.87bn) agreement to build healthcare facilities in the kingdom over a five-year period.

“NMC intends to continue to source ways in which to fill the [long-term care] gap, particularly through brownfield and greenfield expansion projects in areas where the most need exists,” NMC Healthcare’s chief operating officer, Michael Davis, said in the report.

Updated: October 13, 2019 08:02 PM

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