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DOHA: A senior official of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has lamented the severe shortage of qualified nurses in the country, saying HMC is currently working on a five-year strategy to address this issue.
Addressing a workshop involving nursing professionals from the public and private sectors, Dr Nabeela Al Meer, Director of the Nursing Department at HMC said that the number of nurses graduating from the University of Calgary in Qatar, the only such facility in the country is too small to meet the growing demand.
She said there is a severe shortage of qualified and trained nurses working in specialised areas. “About 96 percent of the nurses are recruited from abroad and still there is a shortage. HMC has started hiring qualified nurses from abroad to work in specialised areas like trauma and emergency care, paediatrics, cancer and mental health,” said Al Meer.
According to statistics released by the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) last year, the total number of nurses in the country, including those employed in the private and joint sectors is a little over 10,000 (10,262). Of these, 8,193 nurses are working in the public sector and the remaining in private and joint sectors. The number of Qatari nurses was put at 445 and all of them were working in public sector.
The figure shows that number of nurses in the country is abysmally low, compared to the fast growing population. The SCH is in the process of accrediting all the hospitals in the country and a basic requirement of this accreditation is that each hospital should maintain a 5:1 patient-nurse ratio, according to sources from the private hospitals.
With the 10,000 plus number of nurses, the country is far away from achieving this target. Members of the medical community believe that the problem will further aggravate with opening of several new hospitals in the private and public sectors in the coming years.
“The high demand for qualified nurses in Europe and the US is a major factor behind the shortage of nurses in Qatar and other GCC countries,” according to Dr Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, director of the Quality Control Department at SCH, which is responsible for licensing health care practitioners in the private sector. He said the number of nurses from other countries applying for jobs in Qatar has increased over the past few years.
“Despite an increase in the number of applicants, the country is still facing a severe shortage of nurses, not only in the specialised sectors, but also in the general segment,” said Al Khanji. All the nurses seeking a licence in Qatar must pass an examination conducted by the SCH. They are permitted to practise in the country only after procuring a licence.
India and Far Eastern countries, especially Philippines send the largest number of nurses abroad. Europe and the US remains to be the first preference for nurses from these counties, mainly due to the attractive salaries, they point out.
Those who are coming to the Gulf are mainly women married to men working in the region or those who fail to get a job in the West. The average monthly salary of a nurse in Qatar range from QR4,000 to QR10,000, with the public sector paying more. This is not good enough to attract qualified nurses, especially when considering the rising cost of living in the country, say experts.