On Thursday, King Fahd Specialist Hospital in Saudi Arabia's city of Tabuk opened the kingdom's first robot-operated 'smart pharmacy' that is able to dispense as many as 1,500 packages of medicine per hour.

The new smart pharmacy was inaugurated in the presence of Prince Fahd bin Sultan, the Governor of Tabuk region, who congratulated Tabuk Health Affairs on this achievement, which he said would "contribute to better health care services", according to Arab News.

In order to save the time of patients and pharmacists, ensure better control of drug stocks, provide the highest safety standards, and reduce medication errors, the smart pharmacy can also store over 20,000 packages of medicine, reject expired drugs, and deal with 240 prescriptions per hour.

The pharmacy currently operates six outlets in Saudi Arabia, one of which is dedicated to serving people of determination.

Prince Fahd also thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their continuous support of the healthcare sector in Saudi Arabia.

Plans to sell off all public hospitals and 200,000 pharmacies

The government views healthcare as the sector with the best potential for privatization.

In August 2017, after Saudi authorities announced plans for a privatization drive, Gulf News reported that the government of Saudi Arabia was studying whether to sell off all public hospitals and 200,000 pharmacies.

At the time, Vice Minister for Economy and Planning Mohammed al-Tuwaijri said that they had started the process and among the first assets to be offered will be one of Saudi Arabia's top hospitals, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre in Riyadh.

Not the first time robots make headlines in the kingdom

In October 2017, Sophia - a robot designed by Honk Kong company Hanson Robotics became the first ever humanoid robot to receive citizenship after she was granted the Saudi nationality. The robot received the news while attending the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.

Accepting the citizenship live on stage, she said: "I am very honored and proud for this unique distinction. This is historical to be the first robot in the world to be recognized with a citizenship".