x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Northern health staff must keep up training

All medical professionals must fulfil a fixed number of hours if they are to renew licences, apply for promotion or qualify for a pay rise.

ABU DHABI // All doctors, nurses and pharmacists in the Northern Emirates will have to take compulsory training courses each year, the Ministry of Health said yesterday. In order to renew their licences, apply for a promotion or qualify for a salary increase, all medical professionals will have to take a set number of hours of courses.

Doctors will have to undergo 30 hours of training a year, while pharmacists will be expected to complete 20 hours, nurses 15 hours and technicians 10 hours. Similar requirements are already in place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Dr Amin al Amiri, the head of medical licensing at the ministry, said continuing medical education would help improve performance. "These hours were optional before but it is important that they are compulsory, for the private and public sector," he said.

"They are the basis to improve the quality of health services, in order to ensure development and improved performance." Doctors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, who operate under the Dubai Health Authority and Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, often take the training required of them in the form of seminars at health conferences. Health professionals in the capital clocked up 1,896 hours of training in 2009, an increase of 46 per cent on the previous year.

Physiotherapists, respiratory-therapists, dietetics and medical laboratory technologists in Abu Dhabi are expected to join the programme by the end of this year. Dubai-based Dr Ali al Numairy, vice president of the Arab Medical Union, which has 420,000 members across the Middle East, said the ministry's move was a "worthy" one. "The purpose is obvious," he said. "Medical staff should be constantly improving their skills and learning new things.

"Unless it is compulsory, not many people will be interested in taking the time to go and learn, so this needs to be done." Continuing education was already compulsory in Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, he said. It is also common in countries such as India, Britain and Canada. The Delhi Medical Council, which represents 24,000 doctors in the Indian capital, made it mandatory in 2002 for members to complete 100 hours of education every five years to keep their professional registration.

In Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada decrees that fellows must complete 400 credits every five years, with a minimum of 40 credits obtained in each year of the cycle. Credits can be gained by attending lectures or taking exams. Dr al Amiri said the ministry would launch a website for doctors and pharmacists to register for courses. "The ministry will be organising workshops, training programmes and educational opportunities for medical staff, in collaboration with other health authorities and pharmaceutical companies," he added.

Dr Wesam Kadhum, a dermatologist at Gulf Medical University Hospital in Ajman, said the move would help to improve the general level of medical services. "I've already done more than 60 hours this year, voluntary, but I know many other people don't do them," he said. "It is important for everyone in the medical professional. "Things are constantly changing and you need to keep up to date with all types of skills and technologies. This is very encouraging."

There are currently around 8,400 doctors, nurses and pharmacists in the private sector. Accurate figures on the number of staff in the public sector were not available from the ministry yesterday. munderwood@thenational.ae hkhalaf@thenational.ae