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Saudi ‘needs to recruit 175,000 medics by 2030’

Some 60% percent of doctors working in Saudi Arabia are expats Shutterstock
Some 60% percent of the doctors working in Saudi Arabia are expats
  • Kingdom needs extra 69,000 doctors and 64,000 nurses, report finds
  • Saudisation target for healthcare professionals adds to challenge
  • India and Philippines are among main source markets

Saudi Arabia needs to recruit an additional 175,000 medical professionals to care for its growing population by 2030, research has found.

The kingdom requires an extra 69,000 doctors, 64,000 nurses and 42,000 allied health professionals such as paramedics and osteopaths, according to a report published on May 30 by consultancy Colliers Middle East.

Mansoor Ahmed, executive director for the Middle East and Africa at Colliers Middle East, told AGBI the main drivers included “the growing burden of chronic diseases, an ageing population, increasing patient expectations and rapid advances in treatment innovation and technology”.

He added: “These are all affecting the way health services are delivered. This is leading to changes in the human skill set required to cater to current and emerging healthcare needs of the population.”

Saudisation policies are adding to the challenge. Under a target adopted in 2022, 60 percent of jobs in “health specialisation professions” must be filled by Saudi nationals.

Colliers’ report Medical Education in the Region: Challenges & Opportunities found that Saudi nationals make up 40 percent of doctors (including dentists), 43 percent of nurses and 39 percent of pharmacists.

In the allied health roles, however, 81 percent of professionals are Saudi nationals.

There are around 232,000 expats working as medical professionals in the kingdom, Colliers said.

The report said that an extra 43,000 hospital beds will be needed, to serve a population expected to reach 45 million by the end of the decade.

Dr. Sven-Olaf Vathje, regional head of health and life sciences at international consultancy Oliver Wyman, said: “Saudi Arabia has dominated the recruitment of health professionals into the GCC region for some time and it will remain a dominant absorber of foreign health resources for the foreseeable future.”

Colliers also found that an extra 48,000 healthcare staff will be required in Egypt by 2030. The UAE is forecast to have a gap of roughly 15,000 nurses and allied professionals in Abu Dhabi and 6,000 physicians and 11,000 nurses in Dubai.

Across the three countries, the main source markets for medical professionals are India, the Philippines and some Arab countries, according to Ahmed. Africa, particularly South Africa, and Eastern Europe have also become important.

“However, due to a worldwide shortage of medical human capital, we believe the Middle East and GCC countries should focus on developing a homegrown medical workforce,” he added.

Dr. Sanjai Kumar, head of group HR at Burjeel Holdings, which employs more than 7,000 medical professionals across the UAE, admitted the demand for healthcare professionals had “created a competitive market”.

He said: “We prefer to focus on internal promotions and transfers to fill the requirements.”

The World Economic Forum predicts there will be a global shortfall of 10 million healthcare workers worldwide by 2030, with low and middle- income countries worst affected.