Aug. 26, 2015

Dr. Saleh A. Altamimi

Saudi Arabia

Dr. Saleh A. Altamimi

CEO, King Saud Medical City

TBY talks to Dr. Saleh A. Altamimi, CEO of King Saud Medical City, on the role of the institution and the future of care.


Dr. Saleh A. Altamimi has been the CEO of King Saud Medical City since March 2013. He is also the Saudi Ministry of Health’s Director of the Emergency Medicine Development Program, a position he has held since January 2012. Between June 2009 and February 2013, he was the Associate Executive Director for Medical Administrations at King Fahad Medical City in Riyadh. Prior to this he was the Director of Emergency Medicine and Employee Health at the same facility from May 2007 to June 2009.

What are some of the centers of excellence that you focus on?

Number one is trauma. KSMC aims to become a top level trauma center over the next 2-3 years. A lot of effort is being put into this project through a number of initiatives. One of them is building tower number three, which focuses on trauma and surgery. We have a large fund to build a state-of-the-art surgery and trauma center that is going to be built on a new plot of land we have recently acquired west of KSMC. We are heavily investing in training young Saudis in the best centers around the world and we are collaborating with a number of international partners in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada to help us in training and transferring skills and knowledge. The second center of excellence is orthopedics. We probably have the biggest orthopedics service in the region. We have about 120 orthopedics beds. It is quite busy. Again, we are trying to develop orthopedics by bringing in new skills, upgrading services, and reaching out to the community in better ways. Number three is burns. We have one of the few burn centers in the Riyadh region. It is the biggest one and we are investing more and more into burn care. Our fourth center of excellence is the dental center. We provide comprehensive dental care and maxillofacial surgery free of charge for Saudis. The fifth center of excellence is critical care. We have a total of 150 critical care beds, the most in the Kingdom with a dedicated 40 beds for trauma ICU.

Can you talk about your expansion plans?

This is very exciting. We are going to expand from 1,200 beds to 2,000 beds in seven year's time. Tower number two should be operating in six months. It will be a women and children's hospital. That will be really wonderful news for the community we serve because our current facility is very old. Tower Number three will be for surgery and trauma and will have a large burn unit. Other new projects that will commence in the next 12-24 months are a 200-clinic dental center, a 300-clinic ambulatory center, and a parking building.

What are some of the main challenges for hospitals in Saudi Arabia?

A shortage of skilled professionals is the number one challenge everywhere in the Kingdom. Number two is the lack of integration in our healthcare system. Our patients suffer because of a lack of integration. No hospital could provide excellent care in all specialties. Today, there are 275 hospitals operated by the Ministry and there will be another 100-150 hospitals commissioned in the next five to six years. How are we going to operate all these new hospitals when most current hospitals are suffering from the lack of a skilled workforce? I strongly believe that the answer is in integration and sharing resources. Skilled professionals that are difficult to find should have privileges in more than one hospital. In other words, we should create multiple integrated health systems. We have started integrating with King Fahad Medical City (KFMC) and we have agreed that there will be services that will expand at KFMC and others that will expand at KSMC, but they will complement each other. For example, if we diagnose a case of cancer, it will be referred smoothly to KFMC while trauma or burn cases will be transferred to us.

How do you see the role of public hospitals over the long term?

There is still a severe shortage in the number of hospital beds per capita compared to international benchmarks. And so, I think the partnership between the public and private healthcare systems is in the best interest of the community. Public hospitals have definitely not been able to attend to everyone, so having the private sector assume a larger role is good. We still have a huge problem with regards to access to care and waiting lists. Our ERs are usually full. Having fewer patients will allow us to improve quality.