“We have already started work on some of these university hospitals and contracts will be awarded within a few days to implement the rest of the university hospital projects,” the minister said. “These are educational hospitals. At the same time they will provide health services to people in their respective provinces,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Al-Anqari as saying while visiting Al-Jouf University. He said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, has approved 33 new colleges including seven in Makkah, six in Qassim and four in Tabuk. Twelve UNESCO chairs for scientific research in five Saudi universities have also been approved. The move to establish university hospitals aims at increasing the number of Saudi physicians and medical consultants and providing them with advanced training. At present Saudis account for only 20 percent of the Kingdom’s doctors. Prof. Yassir Bahadur, chairman of the radiology department at King Abdulaziz University Medical College, emphasized the need to open more medical colleges and university hospitals in the Kingdom to meet the growing demand for physicians. “There is a dire shortage of Saudi physicians. The population is increasing and more and more hospitals and medical centers are coming up in various parts of the country. So we need more doctors.”
He said many Saudi students find it difficult to get admission at foreign medical colleges. “I take this opportunity to congratulate the minister for this smart and long-term plan,” he told Arab News.
Bahadur said establishment of hospitals at universities would help their medical students achieve quality training. “Some universities like Umm Al-Qura, which do not have a hospital, sent their medical students to public hospitals for training,” he pointed out.
Al-Anqari said the new hospital at Al-Jouf University would have 200 beds in the initial stage, adding that the capacity would be increased to 800 beds gradually as planned for all university hospitals in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has given top priority to education and training to prepare its younger generation to get actively involved in the nation-building process. The new budget for 2011 has allocated SR150 billion (26 percent of the total) for education and training. The Health Ministry last year announced a plan to increase the number of Saudi doctors at its hospitals by 2020 as part of a major Saudization initiative. According to the plan, there will be 25,858 Saudi doctors (50.4 percent of the total) within the next 10 years. In May 2009, the ministry introduced a new pay scale to woo Saudi doctors. Under the new scale, consultants received a pay rise of 30 percent, deputy doctors 16 percent, resident doctors 15 percent, consultant specialists 41 percent, senior specialists 25 percent and specialists 10 percent.