Exploring the culture with the quality of human resources management a case of healthcare management in Saudi Arabia

In recent years, healthcare in Saudi Arabia has been rated highly globally. In 2002, the World Health Organization rated Saudi Arabia as 26th in the world in terms of healthcare excellence (Tumulty 2004, p. 288).  Significant shifts in the health of the overall population continue to take place rapidly in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect this impressive ranking in a negative way in the future (Tumulty 2004, p. 288). There is a need to determine whether the study of patients’ satisfaction is the best way of evaluating the success of healthcare. Current research emphasizes the evaluation of demographic data and elicitation of patients’ responses on possible areas of improvement.


National healthcare demands in Saudi Arabia today are exacerbated by rising levels of comfort and an aging population and disdain towards exercise. Most of these changes are culturally motivated. They continue to affect the human resource management efforts being made by policymakers in the nation’s health sector. The factors that overburden the healthcare human resources in Saudi Arabia are culturally different from that that overburdens other countries. This is why it is necessary to treat this country’s healthcare challenges apart from those of other countries.

There are many gaps in human resource management practices in Saudi Arabia’s health sector. The extent of participation by the government in regulating the health sector is also worth assessing. Additionally, other areas worth revisiting include customer satisfaction, improvement in the quality of healthcare services, current quality trends, and the costs of quality. Changes in culture will always be a thorny issue, especially with regard to improvement in healthcare services quality in newly industrialized countries such as Saudi Arabia.

The fact that Saudi Arabia’s healthcare facilities are equipped with well-trained professionals who are acquired through aggressive training and recruitment techniques presents many prospects for progress in terms of the provision of healthcare services. However, the country faces lame inefficiencies despite the flow of ‘royal cash’ (Baranowski 2007, p. 1). According to Berhie (1991, p. 819), the modern Saudi Arabian health system can be said to have had different phases, including planning with shifts, overtime organizational arrangements, and changes in priorities. In all these shifts, issues of culture and efficiency in HRM principles need to take a center stage.

A government healthcare delivery system has rapidly proliferated in both the private and public sectors, for stakeholders, this must bring into focus many issues of healthcare planning. Some of the issues of critical importance include cultural considerations, human resource management, health information systems, coordination and the need to establish a national health planning body. The platform for reinforcing the developments that have already taken place as a result of improvements in the health sector in Saudi Arabia is worth analyzing critically.

The issue of professional training of nurses is worth paying attention to, considering a large number of young nursing professionals who are struggling to meet the demanding needs of a rapidly growing population (Tumulty 2004, p. 285). The implications of putting a priority on the development of a kingdom-wide nurse regulation system are yet to be discussed in great detail. Nurses are essential human resources whose professional standards should always be maintained. Licensing all nurses in the kingdom, forming a national nurses association and accrediting all academic programs are some of the measures which are extremely critical to improving the quality of healthcare standards. Additionally, the extent of improvements that need to be carried out is worth analyzing incisively in order to come up with the right modalities of healthcare regulation.

The direct relationship that exists between cultural practices in Saudi Arabia and the health care practices creates a platform for further analysis of the resulting effects on the quality of healthcare services offered. Cultural influences that can be seen in hospital, regional and ministry levels may be a manifestation of an underlying organizational culture. Scanty research is available in this area. In the public sector, the degree of quality of healthcare services is profoundly determined by the underpinning cultural notions that govern the way people undertake professional tasks.

According to Tumulty (2004, p. 285, six key factors affect the quality of services offered by the Ministry of Health Nursing services in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These include organizational and managerial activities, the socio-cultural system, the external environment, employees, formal organizational arrangements, and nursing services and research. The extent to which all these factors are critical in efforts to carry out the needs analysis of human resource management in Saudi Arabia’s health care system is worth investigating.

According to Gallagher & Searle (1985, p. 259), the provision of healthcare services in Saudi Arabia is being affected by the kingdom’s cultural practices. These aspects of culture include devotion to Islam, segregation of females, extended-family values, and the Al-Saud monarchy. Whether these aspects have been integrated in recent years in order to constitute a new ‘political culture’ is a matter worth studying in great detail. The ‘political culture’ could have a strong influence on the functioning of all the kingdom’s institutions as suggested by Bozionelos (2009, p. 131).  One key element of these institutions, which faces significant influence, is human resources management. For instance, the need for the government to provide healthcare services to pilgrims during the hajj is always accorded exceptional cultural importance, thus many healthcare professionals get employment in this way. Identical analyses are necessary for all other intervening cultural factors in Saudi Arabia’s healthcare system, particularly with regard to human resource management.


There are also far-reaching cultural sensitivities regarding employment if female physicians. Today, most of the healthcare services in Saudi Arabia are provided by male expatriate physicians.  In order to overcome the culture of segregating women, there is a need for the Saudi government to take affirmative action measures when offering women training opportunities into the medical profession. Reliance on expatriate physicians is being felt to be a threat to the Saudi culture. This worrying trend is expected to continue for almost one decade (Brown & Busman 2003, p. 350).

The quality of healthcare services offered is affected by the growth dynamics in both private and government medicine. In the future, these growth dynamics may change although it is unclear how this change may take place. Many human resource management stakeholders consider the provision of government health services as a way of legitimizing the Al-Saud regime, which is conservative.  Indeed, changes in human resource management in the health sector seem to constitute a peculiar form of modernization that meets the test of cultural compatibility (Brown & Busman 2003, p. 351).


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pp. 111 – 134.

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