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The Role of the Temporary Contracting and Visiting Doctor Program in Supporting the Health System during and after COVID-19 Pandemic in Saudi Arabia

Faisal S. Alenezi, Aeshah I. Alsagheir, Lamya M. Alzubaidi, Wijdan S. Al-Saedi, Saleh S. Alharbi, Muna H. Hassanein, Tareef Y. Alaama.


Background: Adequate supply of health workforce with proper skills is essential to deliver appropriate health services in normal times and during disasters. Objective: To describe the role of the Saudi Temporary Contracting and Visiting Doctors Program in the provision of critical care during COVID-19 pandemic, and in the clearance of the surgical backlog thereafter. Methods: We reviewed reports of General Directorate of Health Services and Saudi Ministry of Health annual statistical books to obtain the following data: number of temporary healthcare professionals contracted from 2019 to 2022; number of intensive care unit beds before and during COVID-19 pandemic; volume of elective surgeries before, during and after COVID-19 pandemic. Results: In 2020, intensive care unit beds increased from 6341 to 9306 in governmental hospitals in response to COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 3539 temporary healthcare professionals were recruited from April to August 2020 to contribute towards staffing the added beds. During the recovery period from COVID-19 pandemic, 4322 and 4917 temporary health care professionals were recruited in 2021and 2022 respectively. Elective surgeries volume increased from 5074 in September 2020 to 17533 in September 2021 to 26242 in September 2022, surpassing the volume of surgeries in pre-COVID-19 period. Conclusions: In response to COVID-19 pandemic, and through the existing temporary contracting program, the Saudi Ministry of Health was able to recruit temporary staff of verified credentials in a timely manner, to supplement the existing staff, for activation of the newly added intensive care unit beds, and for clearing the resulting surgical backlog.

Key words: COVID-19, temporary staff, intensive care unit, surgical backlog

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