Lack of women doctors seen by some as a barrier to women seeking medical advice
Part-time work would entice more female doctors to stay in profession, cardiologist says
Female doctors should be allowed to work part-time to help redress the gender imbalance that is seen as a barrier to more women seeking medical advice.
The Zayed University study found that almost two out of three women prefer going to a female doctor, but only one in three believes there are enough of them.
Dr Wael Al Mahmeed, a consultant cardiologist in Abu Dhabi, believes this shortage of women doctors is contributing to not enough women going for check-ups.
"If you go to the medical schools in the country, they are full of female doctors. After graduation, women get married, have children and can’t do further training,” he said.
“Very few women continue postgraduate studies. There is enough doctors being trained but they go for more sociable jobs.
"One of the ways out is to let women work part-time. Part-time options are not available in the UAE. [We should ] change the rules regarding part-time work to retain female doctors.
"If you ask female doctors to work full-time and do night calls, they can’t in many cases and then end up dropping out of the workforce.”
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A majority - 66 per cent - of Emirati women felt it was important to have female doctors tending to them, and only 28.8 per cent felt there were enough of them.
However, Dr Sarah Khan, the primary author of the study, noted that it also found that Emirati women often prefer to go to male doctors “as they think they are more qualified”.
"Even though women would prefer female doctors or cardiologists, that was not a barrier to their healthcare behaviour,” she said. “It was culturally permissible for them to approach male doctors.”
Dr Walid Shaker, consultant and cardiothoracic surgeon and head of department at Burjeel Hospital, believes the lack of female cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in the country may be a factor in the late detection of heart disease in women.
“Maybe the women in the Middle East are not very well exposed to medical services. They prefer a female doctor and this makes the accessibility to medical services a little less than in men,” he said.