x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Patients suffer as hospital staff leave

Serious shortages as low-paid doctors, nurses, technicians and administrative staff leave state facilities for more lucrative private sector jobs.

NORTHERN EMIRATES // Chronic staff shortages brought on by low pay have resulted in government hospitals providing substandard treatment, according to members of the Federal National Council. Underpaid doctors, nurses, technicians and administrative staff have left in droves to join private hospitals which offer more attractive salary packages, a parliamentary committee found.

The situation was grave and would not improve until the Government increased pay, said the committee, whose findings were backed by the hospitals. One in Ajman said it had fewer than half the number of doctors it needed, and just over half the required number of nurses. At another hospital, a lack of staff had caused the closure of the radiology department. "The situation is bad, the medical services are substandard, there are massive resignations among staff as jobs privileges are not satisfactory," said Dr Sultan al Muezzin, the head of the FNC's committee on health, labour and social affairs.

"The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance both have to make tremendous changes in the Northern Emirates. Unless the salaries of the medical staff in the Northern Emirates is raised and made attractive, the medical services cannot be improved." The committee is visiting hospitals in the Northern Emirates and will submit its findings to the Ministries of Health and Finance which, between them, decide salary levels and recruit medical staff in government facilities. Neither ministry was available for comment.

Dr al Muezzin said the Ministry of Finance had delayed plans it made last year to recruit new medical staff while it studied possible changes to pay structures. He was speaking during a field visit to Umm al Qaiwain Hospital on Tuesday. The committee visited Kuwait Hospital in Sharjah earlier in the week. The committee had established a general shortage of medical staff in all the hospitals they had visited, said Dr al Muezzin.

Umm al Qaiwain Hospital, the emirate's only government hospital, had a shortage of doctors, nurses and technicians. "We found that some departments in the hospital like the radiology section had closed, and all their equipment disabled because there are no specialists doctors to work in those departments," he said. Many staff at the hospital complained to the committee about their Ministry of Health salaries compared with their counterparts in the private sector. This was the main reason many doctors were leaving the hospital for private clinics, they said.

Dr al Muezzin said he had asked the ministry to speed up maintenance work which has kept the hospital's maternity section closed for several months. The committee briefed Sheikh Saud bin Rashid, the Ruler of Umm al Qaiwain, about the situation. They found that staff and salary levels were no different at Sheikh Khalifah Hospital in Ajman. Dr Abdul Younus, the hospital's general manager, said it had 94 doctors but needed 200, and had 337 nurses out of a required 594. The radiology section had 37 technicians and needed 19 more, he said.

The hospital's pharmacies had to close in the evenings because they were 15 pharmacists short. At present, they have 23. Dr Younus said he had raised all these issues with the Ministry of Health. Hamad Taryam, the director of Ajman Medical Zone, said a new gynaecology and paediatrics unit was nearing completion, but so far had no doctors. In Sharjah, the committee visited Kuwait Hospital and Al Qassimi Hospital. Dr Yousif al Serkal, the director of Kuwait Hospital, said it had a serious staff shortage and no appointments were being made.

The committee has also visited hospitals in Ras al Khaimah and will go to Fujairah before the end of the month. @Email:ykakande@thenational.ae