RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to invest SR250 billion ($66.67 billion) in healthcare infrastructure and boost private sector participation from the current 40 percent to 65 percent by 2030, according to a new Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) report published on Sunday.
The report forecast the Kingdom’s population will grow from 34.3 million in 2019 to 39.4 million by 2030 and estimated that the number could rise as high as 45 million by 2050.
Published by the UAE’s Mashreq Bank and international research firm Frost & Sullivan, the report revealed strong growth in the GCC healthcare sector, driven by a surge in medical devices, a growing branded generics market and increased investment in infrastructure and innovation.
The report also forecast that an estimated 40 to 50 percent of the planned healthcare investment is likely to be on infrastructure until 2025, as well as on digital solutions and medical consumables and implants beyond 2025. Saudi Arabia is also poised to become a regional hub for medical consumables by 2023.
Life expectancy in the Kingdom is projected to increase from 76.4 to 81.8 years by 2050, and health spending is projected to increase by $45.9 billion, for a total of $160 billion by 2050. Deaths from noncommunicable diseases are projected to decline from 73 percent to 60 percent by 2030, and surgical procedures are expected to increase by 20 percent annually.
The report stated that GCC hospital revenues are predicted to grow by 5.8 percent in 2021, and the authors of the report believe the healthcare sector is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Between 2010 and 2020, the GCC region had the highest healthcare infrastructure investments, with a major increase in the number of hospitals and beds. The number of hospitals almost doubled in most countries, and at least 80 percent of the hospitals and primary care clinics built in the GCC were driven by government initiatives.
Hospital revenues heavily impacted by a pandemic-induced drop in outpatient visits and elective surgery volumes are expected to bounce back strongly in the first and second quarter of 2021 in most GCC countries.
In terms of other GCC countries, the report stated that the UAE is shifting focus to domestic manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in 2021 and beyond, while Bahrain is investing heavily in the digital transformation of healthcare services and delivery. This policy drive toward healthcare digitalization is likely to reach its peak within the next two to three years, attracting investments of around $0.5-$0.6 billion by 2025.
Kuwait aims to boost infrastructure development, and Qatar intends to establish several new hospitals in line with the demand for specialized services, with medical tourism expected to gain prominence in Qatar and be a focal point for the government’s strategy to diversify the economy away from oil.