Pages of the Oasis

Monday, September 16, 2013

About the Health Care System in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

I woke up one morning with a raging fever, unable to talk and tortured by a burning hot, swollen throat unlike anything I had had since a was a young child, phlegm filled lungs and waves of nausea. I could barely drag myself out of bed to text message my supervisor that I wouldn’t be coming in to work that day.

I knew I had to get myself to the doctor’s to get a note so that I could qualify for sick leave pay and lose out on the day’s pay, but I was so ill that I was tempted to simply stay home in bed.  After a long feverish, sweat soaked nap I managed to get dressed and walk out to the lobby and then out the front door to flag down a cab and get to the doctor’s office.

I was glad I had taken the time the month before to find the nearest clinic and find out what I needed in order to get registered for health care, so I had my passport and health care card ready, as well as a pamphlet with the clinic’s name, address, phone number and a map. It was such a relief to be able to pass over the pamphlet with a map and phone number the cabbie could call instead of having to croak out directions and try to communicate with someone who likely had as many words in English as I had in Arabic: about 10. 

Once at the clinic, I went to the front reception desk and was met by very efficient Filipino nursing staff who spoke excellent English. I only waited for 5 minutes before I got in to see a female doctor. She promptly diagnosed me with laryngitis, bronchitis and the flu and prescribed 3 antibiotic shots, which I received from the medical clinic on the other side of the lobby 20 minutes later.

I had never had shots like this before. I was shocked when I felt instantly better, within minutes. They only cost me about $6.00 in total, after my health care coverage was taken into account.

I felt human by the time I left the clinic, and felt my fever go down quickly. I was ready to go back to work within 2 days, which struck me as a minor miracle. Had I been back in Canada, they would likely have given me a prescription for antibiotic pills, told me to go home and rest and let things run their course, and I would have been really ill and off work for at least a couple of weeks.

So, as you can guess, I was left with a really positive impression of the health care system in Saudi Arabia.

As a result, here`s a recap of my recommendations:

-negotiate for health care plan as part of your contract, or if included, find out the specifics (is dental included? When does the plan take effect?)

-Visit the nearest clinic(s) to your home and find the best hospital for foreigners, and go there before you get sick in order to get a business card, brochure or pamphlet with Arabic as well as English, phone number(s), and a map / address,  so you know how to find it again, and also have something to give cab drivers.

-Follow up to make sure you get your health care insurance card as soon as is reasonably possible (six weeks or less is reasonable) after signing your contract and make a photocopy of the plan details and health care card as a safeguard.