Doctors are administered either by the Ministry of Health or, if attached to military establishments, by the Ministry of the Interior. Doctors in the latter category are also available to the general public under certain circumstances. Many of Saudi Arabia’s doctors come from Europe, the USA, Egypt, India and Pakistan, and their qualifications are verified by the Ministries before they’re allowed to practise in the region. Most embassies keep details of their nationals who practise medicine in the region. Alternative medicine practitioners aren’t as common as they are in Europe and the USA, and you should check that they’ve been given state registration before using them. On the other hand, there are excellent antenatal and obstetrics services throughout the region, in both the public and private sectors; if you don’t have private cover, the public services have a first class reputation.
Doctors are allowed to advertise and commonly do in the yellow pages. but it’s best to choose a doctor according to word-of-mouth recommendation. If you have private health cover, you can change your doctor as you feel necessary, make appointments easily and in some instances simply walk in and see a doctor. Doctor’s appointments in the public sector are normally given within 24 to 72 hours of the request. If making use of public health facilities, however, you’re recommended to attend in person to ensure that you obtain help quickly, rather than relying on the telephone appointment system. Surgery hours vary but there are always two periods, usually between 9am and 1pm, and from 5 to 8.30pm. A same-day appointment can usually be arranged, and in an emergency you will be seen very quickly.
A routine first diagnostic visit to a private doctor costs from $60 (£40), with additional costs for any tests required. Many private doctors are able to process simple blood and urine tests on their premises and usually have electro-cardiogram equipment. A call-out fee for a home visit increases costs and in some cases a night-time visit incurs a surcharge. If you’re referred to a specialist, costs can run to hundreds of dollars. When you pay, you receive a receipt to claim from your insurers.
As is the case with doctors, there are excellent dentists in Saudi Arabia, the vast majority of them foreign, particularly from Scandinavia, Britain and Russia. Most embassies keep details of their nationals who practise dentistry in the region. Dentists and orthodontists advertise in telephone directories, expatriate magazines and tourist guides. Most dentists in the region are private, although local nationals are sometimes treated at public hospitals. As with doctors and hospitals, ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues before choosing a dentist.
Surgery hours are generally 9am to 1pm and 4 to 8pm, Saturdays to Thursdays, with some emergency provision. Treatment costs vary but not by much because of the competition that exists. Many dentists have their own work rooms and technicians producing crowns, bridges and prosthetics, and this speeds up treatment. If you need extensive treatment, discuss a payment plan with your dentist to spread the cost over a period. If you’re insured, the insurers will require the dentist to fill out the appropriate paperwork; check that he does so properly.