GCC countries to suffer from healthcare professional shortages
DUBAI // The Arabian Gulf states are producing too few medical graduates to meet soaring demand for health care.
Up to 80 per cent of medical staff in some hospitals and clinics are from outside the region and have been trained in more than 50 different countries.
The imbalance has led to inconsistencies in techniques and training standards across the region, a new study has found.
“Without the right staff, the best equipment can stand unused and the most up-to-date techniques may not necessarily be in full practice,” says the report by the management consultants McKinsey & Company.
It predicts that overall demand for health care in the GCC will increase by 240 per cent in the next 20 years.
The lack of trained physicians will be especially evident in cardiovascular care, where a 419 per cent rise in treatment demand has been predicted, and in diabetes-related ailments, where a 323 per cent rise is expected.
The findings of the report echo calls made at a UAE Cabinet meeting in December for better regulation of the efficiency and competence of healthcare staff.
The issue will be discussed at the Arab Health Exhibition and Congress this month in Dubai, when delegates will review how other countries maintain medical staff ratios and levels of competence.
“Analysing demand and planning capacity and identifying tools to increase specialisation are key to ensuring continual specialist medical services in the region,” said Dr Amer Sharif, managing director of Dubai Healthcare City Education and a congress speaker.
Post-graduate specialisation programmes and simulation-based training for medical staff from health authorities and academic institutions are necessary steps to resolve the issue, said Dr Sharif, who is responsible for medical education projects, clinical training and research.
“At a policy level, career advancement opportunities should be implemented to increase specialisation. To produce high-calibre, competent medical specialists, maintenance of existing skills and development of new skills should be encouraged.”
Also taking part in the discussion will be Moritz Hartmann, general manager of the healthcare company Roche Diagnostics Middle East. He said improving the knowledge of staff should be a priority for a sector that is reliant on technical innovation.
In the field of in vitro – or test tube – diagnostics that the company specialises in, “there is still a significant amount of tests that are not performed in the UAE” and have to be requested from specialists abroad, he said.
Studies indicate that for many diseases, such as preeclampsia – a condition affecting pregnant women – in-vitro diagnostics can help, said Mr Hartmann. The condition, which can lead to birth complications if left untreated, is diagnosed by observing symptoms, he said.
Despite these problems, he said the UAE’s advances in the field of health care had far surpassed that of other developing nations.
“The speed of development in the healthcare sector in the UAE is great,” he said. “I do not see many other nations going that fast in the right direction.”
Updated: January 5, 2014 04:00 AM