REGULATORS CREATING CHANGE

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | HEALTH | B2B

The rapid transformation of the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia calls for greater planning and regulations, including accreditations and workforce planning.

Prof. Ayman Assad Abdo
PROF. AYMAN ASSAD ABDO
Secretary General
Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS)
Dr. Salim Abdullah Alwahabi
DR. SALIM ABDULLAH ALWAHABI
Director General
Saudi Central Board for Accreditation of Healthcare Institutions (CBAHI)

What are your primary activities for improving healthcare?

PROF. AYMAN ASSAD ABDO SCFHS was established under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health with the primary mandate to improve professional performance, develop skills, and enrich scientific theory and practice in the healthcare sector. We have two main functions: licensing and education. The first is a regulatory function, while the other is educational, for which we run all the post-graduate healthcare programs. The most comprehensive program is the Saudi Board, training physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and all kinds of health specialties with 80 different programs. We are the only organization that is mandated to govern the sector from a training perspective. All post-graduate training for healthcare professionals is under our supervision. Second, we focus on licensing, which means that no one can be a healthcare practitioner in Saudi Arabia without SCFHS accreditation. We provide the verification of certificate, licensing, and registration for all healthcare workers. We promote and protect health through the healthcare practitioners.

DR. SALIM ABDULLAH ALWAHABI CBAHI is a government institute that has been tasked with defining the quality standards for all healthcare initiatives in the country. Additionally, we must do field assessments of these facilities to verify compliance. Our function is to create, in consultation with outside experts from all over the world, the various standards manuals. This allows us to create a codified set of standards for every medical practice and facility. We publish and disseminate these standards, make them accessible to everyone, and then conduct field assessments. Our mission is to support healthcare organizations in Saudi to comply with accreditation standards and to improve continually the quality of care in the country. This is our core mission, and we believe that we are making a difference.

What opportunities do the current reforms under Vision 2030 provide to improve the quality of healthcare?

AAA We have a supporting role and three of our own major initiatives here: to increase the capacity of training from 3,000 to 4,000 residents per year; rehabilitate and upscale training centers; and develop family medicine academies to encourage more practitioners into this profession. In our supporting role, we address two other major roles: we prepare practitioners to accept the transformation program and protect their rights, not as a union but out of a sense of responsibility. The large missing piece is healthcare workforce planning, as there is no one entity that does that in the country. A major challenge is the big expansion in medical and healthcare undergraduate programs without expansion and training, meaning there is a gap. That is why one of the initiatives is to ensure that every single graduate of healthcare school gets an opportunity for training. The last aspect is family medicine, since the entire transformation is based on prevention. Our current healthcare system is extremely tertiary based, with sophisticated high-end centers. We envision moving toward the UK model of preventative and primary care. This should be done by family doctors, of which we do not have enough, so we have to promote the profession.

SAA The basic concept of health transformation is part of Vision 2030 and in line with the World Health Organization's (WHO) initiatives, aiming to provide universal healthcare for everyone in Saudi Arabia. The core of the transformation that we are trying to achieve is to provide universal healthcare per the guidelines of WHO. Universal care is the solution to all the problems facing health systems around the world. In order to do this, we need to establish the basic components of a healthcare financing system. We need to both raise funds, pool patients to spread financial risk, and engage in strategic service purchasing in the most efficient way. Currently, we see a state-funded national healthcare system whereby the government pays for all health services from its revenues. Expats, however, are required to pay certain fees, while there is private insurance for those working in the private sector. The problem with this system is that it will not be sustainable in the long run. This is why the government has promoted the idea of universal healthcare. CBAHI is an independent body that will observe and assess the quality of the services being provided by various hospitals.