x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Medical interns in Northern Emirates still not paid for work

More than 80 working at ministry hospitals remain concerned after Minister of Health tells Federal National Council the delay is due to administrative problems.

Scores of Emirati medical interns have not been paid, more than a month after the Minister of Health promised they would be.

More than 80 are employed at Ministry of Health hospitals in the Northern Emirates. Interns from previous years were paid for their work, but that was discontinued.

On May 2, the ministry said they would be paid about Dh11,000 a month, half the salary of a newly qualified doctor, backdated to January. But they have yet to receive a dirham.

The minister, Dr Abdul Rahman Al Owais, assured the FNC the payments would be made by next month, blaming administrative problems.

But the interns, who did not wish to be indentified, say they have been left in the dark.

"We asked council members what was happening, because HR at the ministry have blocked all of our numbers," said "Sara".

Salim Al Ameri, chairman of the FNC health committee, said the minister had met the committee at a closed meeting at the end of last month.

"He said the salary would come in within a month. It's all just paperwork and co-ordination with the Ministry of Finance," Mr Al Ameri said.

But the interns are worried, saying they have been let down "too many times".

"First they promised us that we would be paid in January, then again and again, and now nothing," said "Ahmed". "We have finished nine months in our internship and have only three left … why are they promising us things they don't plan to do?"

Like many of his colleagues, he said he had visited the ministry several times to speak to the HR department. He was told he needed to wait for security clearance to be able to sign a contract.

"They told us the delay was out of their hands," said "Mariam", another intern. "But why did they start working on our papers so late?

"They asked for our papers in January, then they lost some of them and asked for the documents again mid-May, after the minister had already announced that we would be paid in the same month.

"Why did they delay all this? Why is it all so slow?"

She added that Al Ittihad newspaper had quoted the ministry's HR department as saying the contracts were ready for signing, when in reality were not.

"Ahmed" tried to call the minister's office several times at the end of last month for updates but no one called him back.

"The minister told us in April that he would meet with us the next month, so I wanted to arrange the meeting, but they have ignored our calls," he said.

Mr Al Owais had originally told the interns that it would be impossible to pay them, as it had not been budgeted for.

He said they might receive some financial rewards or "bonuses" by the end of the year. He added that as interns they were only trainees and so should not be paid.

But after much pressure from the FNC, Mr Al Owais said salaries would be paid "soon".

He is still scheduled to appear before the FNC next week to give an official response on the issue.

The ministry was unable to comment.

osalem@thenational.ae