The showpiece integrated medical facility in Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plan to build world-class health centers, King Khalid Medical City would serve approximately seven million people in the kingdom’s Eastern Province when completed by 2018

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has been getting ready for the expected expansion of the healthcare market, locally and regionally, by embarking on a 10-year strategic plan to build world-class health centers and put 3,500 healthcare facilities with 70,000 beds under one integrated network.

Under its “Integrated and Comprehensive Health Program” (ICHP), 61 new hospitals, 776 primary health care centers, and nine specialized medical centers have been built in the last four years alone. Currently, 637 primary health care centers, 30 more hospitals and six more specialized medical centers are being built. The ultimate goal is to have 264 hospitals with 70,694 beds, 2,750 primary health care centers, and 27 specialized medical centers by the end of the decade.

The showpiece projects in this grand plan are four state-of-the-art medical cities worth US$4.3 billion, earmarked and planned through a royal decree by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. These medical cities would offer citizens and residents the best medical treatment, research and education in the kingdom.

The largest among these facilities is King Khalid Medical City (KKMC) in Dammam, which is slated to begin construction by the end of this year and completed in 2018. It would be built on land allocated by Saudi Aramco some 20 km southwest of Dhahran at a cost of SR4.6 billion (USD1.2 billion). The 700,000m² campus will be anchored by a 1,500-bed hospital manned by highly-trained health professionals and equipped with the latest in medical technology.

In addition, the development will feature residential buildings, a hotel, a commercial complex, educational facilities, a research center, and recreational facilities to make it a self-sustaining community that is centered on health services. 

“King Khalid Medical City will be the leading center of excellence in specialized health care in the Eastern Province and will include seven centers of excellence: Cardiovascular, neurosciences, rehabilitation, multi-neurosciences, multi-organ transplant, genetic organ transplant, genetic & metabolic, ophthalmology, and oncology & metabolic, ophthalmology and oncology,” Dr. Ibrahim Al-Arifi, Executive Director of Clinical and Medical Affairs at King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Dammam, recently said in a report

KKMC won the 2013 Best Hospital Design (Future) Award at the Hospital Build and Infrastructure 2013 Awards for using the latest technology in its design and construction plans. The facility also aspires to get Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or LEED Silver certification – the only medical city to do so. 

Mr. Mounir Marhaba, Program Director of KKMC, said recently at the Hospital Build & Infrastructure Middle East Exhibition & Congress in Dubai, UAE, that the medical city would operate as a fully digital hospital utilizing electronic health records and other digital technologies, reflecting similar hospital projects elsewhere in the region. “The GCC is investing heavily in its healthcare services infrastructure and the region stands poised to take full advantage of becoming the pioneer in implementing integrated digital hospitals,” Marhaba said. “Even if the vision, know-how, and financial investments are in place, the road to excellent patient care will not be cheap. The development of digital hospitals is becoming more of a critical reality than a luxury.”

Saudi Arabia is the largest healthcare market in the GCC region, comprising 58.2 percent of the whole sector. This will grow 12 percent annually to $69.4 billion by 2018, parallel to population growth that is forecast to increase 20 percent from the current 23 million to 30 million by 2016, according to data from the Saudi Health 2014 website.

Cognizant of this trend, Saudi Arabia looks poised to meet future demand by building world-class, digital hospitals to serve its citizens and residents.