x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Two thousand extra medical workers to bring health boost for Northern Emirates

More than 2,200 medical workers will be hired this year to address the shortage of healthcare staff in the Northern Emirates, a senior official has said.

More than 2,200 medical workers will be hired this year to address the shortage of healthcare staff in the Northern Emirates, a senior official has said. Sultan al Muezzin, who headed an FNC committee on health, labour and social affairs that made field visits to the four emirates in March, said authorities were intent on solving problems in government hospitals.

The group recently met with the finance, health and works ministries to examine possible solutions to problems, which include poor care, equipment shortages and a lack of staff. "Before, it was the Ministry of Finance that had stopped recruiting medical staff," Mr al Muezzin said. "Now it has accepted that the Ministry of Health needs more staff." The FNC committee found that chronic staff shortages brought on by low pay had resulted in substandard treatment.

Doctors, nurses, technicians and administrative staff left government health facilities in large numbers to join private hospitals, which offer more attractive salaries. The shortages were exacerbated when the Ministry of Finance stopped recruiting hospital workers as it studied the hospitals' needs. The finance ministry had agreed to lift the hiring freeze, Mr al Muezzin said, adding that the issue of pay rises was being discussed.

In Umm al Qaiwain Hospital, the only government hospital in the emirate, many staff complained to the committee about their salaries compared with their counterparts in the private sector, Mr al Muezzin said. That was the main reason doctors were leaving the hospital for private clinics. The FNC committee found that staff and salary levels at the UAQ Hospital were similar to Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman, another public institution.

Dr Abdul Younus, the Ajman 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 have had to close in the evenings because they were short 15 pharmacists. They have 23 at present. Dr Younus said he had raised all these issues with the health ministry.

His hospital is not the only one in the emirate in need of staff. Hamad Taryam, the director of Ajman Medical Zone, said a new gynaecology and paediatrics unit was nearing completion, but no doctors had been hired. Still, reports of an exodus from government hospitals may be exaggerated. Rashid Obaid al Shehhi, the director of the UAQ Hospital, said hospital records showed only five workers had resigned since the start of the year.

He said the Ministry of Health had already promised to hire more doctors, especially in the radiology department and the laboratory. ykakande@thenational.ae