Ambulance services exist, but these are usually controlled by the police (and used primarily for road accidents) or by the state hospitals. If you need to get to hospital quickly, the most reliable method is to use your own transport or go by taxi. This is common in the region. Even the victims of road accidents, if their injuries aren’t too severe, are often bundled into a car or taxi and taken to hospital. Police and emergency services are sometimes equipped with helicopter services, but these are only used for road accidents, beach accidents involving drowning and evacuations from difficult terrain.
On arrival in Saudi Arabia, you should immediately take note of the emergency telephone numbers, the location of the major hospitals and their facilities, and the quickest route to the nearest hospital with an accident and emergency department. Your work colleagues can advise you about the best places to go. Keep the telephone number of a taxi service by the telephone in case your own transport is unavailable. Your private doctor will usually make house calls if requested in non-emergency cases.
In the case of a medical emergency, observe the following procedure:
- If you’re able to, go directly to the nearest hospital with an accident and emergency department.
- If you don’t have your own transport and an ambulance service exists, call the ambulance number. The operator will be able to speak both Arabic and English and will respond in the language that you use. (Although English is widely spoken by the emergency services, telephone operators, etc., it’s useful to know a few appropriate words of Arabic to use if the need arises.) You will be asked to identify yourself and give your address; remember that you might have to give directions, using nearby landmarks rather than the street number. You will also be asked about the type of medical problem. If it’s life-threatening, such as a heart attack or a serious accident, make this clear.
- Ask for an expected time of arrival of an ambulance and whether trained medical personnel will be in attendance. The answer might persuade you to call a taxi.
- If calling a taxi, make sure that the driver or taxi company understands the urgency of the situation.