The best way to measure a country’s progress is to look at the standards of its health care, for economic, military, cultural power, or anything else for that matter, is not as important as concern for one’s health. This is the gateway for an individual’s happiness, stability and contentment. I [previously] wrote an article with this title in which I discussed the state of healthcare [in Saudi Arabia], then former Saudi Health Minister Dr. Ghazi al-Gosaibi responded to my article saying “I hope that a day will come when people will no longer ask the question ‘How’s your health?’ For everybody will be in a state of security about their health.”
In the past, I would be very sad when looking at the convoy of Saudi patients traveling to foreign countries in order to undergo serious medical procedures, due to the absence of this capability in Saudi Arabia. I saw this as an issue that required intervention in order to advance our hospitals and halt our citizens from being forced to seek medical treatment abroad. However Saudi Arabia was then transformed into one of the centers of developed medical treatment in the region, and patients from countries where we previously sought treatment are now seeking treatment in Saudi Arabia. I still hope for a time when a patient, regardless of the illness he is suffering, does not have to seek treatment abroad, but instead can receive this at home, for the most difficult thing is if illness and exile coincide.
All of these ideas were going through my head last Sunday whilst I was attending – along with a group of writers and journalists – a press conference held at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Jeddah. This hospital was supposed to be providing treatment to a large portion of the Saudi population; however it had experienced difficulties for a number of years and was severely in debt. This was prior to the intervention of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who paid off a debt of more than 400 million riyals and brought the hospital back into the black. The hospital is now starting again with a clean slate, and is preparing to establish a number of major projects such as establishing two high-tech [medical] centers, one for cancer treatment and the other for neurosurgery, expanding the pediatric, cardiology and radiology departments, and establishing outpatient clinics. The hospital is also set to adopt an expansion plan to increase the overall number of beds to 760.
Chief Executive Director of the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Dr. Qasim al-Qasabi, along with hospital director Dr. Tariq Linijawi, were optimistic about the hospital’s future during the press conference. They said that the steps that the hospital is set to take in the future represent an important and vital leap with regards to the medical services on offer. Just as we criticized hospitals in the past, let us now pay tribute to this new reality, and we hope that similar models [for hospitals] are established in different regions of the country, for after all health care must be the priority.