Gulf health care faces acute staff shortage
Both public and private health care providers in the Arabian Gulf are grappling with an acute shortage of clinical staff, according to a leading international management consultancy.
The shortage of medical professionals is a worldwide phenomenon but is particularly severe in the Gulf Co-operation Council countries where the output of new national medical graduates cannot keep pace with the region’s population increase. As a result, reliance on physicians and nurses from overseas – comprising up to 80 per cent of staff in some countries - will continue for the foreseeable future.
These and related issues will come into focus at the upcoming Arab Health Congress - the world’s largest multi-track series of conferences providing high calibre continuing medical education accredited events to health care professionals throughout the Middle East. The Congress takes place alongside Arab Health, the region’s premier health event, from 28 – 31 January 2008 at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, United Arab Emirates.
“Many expatriate medical workers, particularly those from India and the Philippines, view the Gulf as a stepping-stone to more lucrative careers in the West,” said consultants McKinsey & Co. in a recent report. “The few Western staffers who come to the Gulf see it as an opportunity to save money, perhaps to pay off debts from medical school, and then return home.”
The best way to reduce staff turnover would be to enlist more nationals but this has proved difficult, particularly in nursing, as many locals consider it a demeaning profession. But as more locals train at Western educational facilities in the Gulf - such as the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in Bahrain and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar - public confidence in local doctors and nurses is likely to grow.
McKinsey estimates that total GCC health care spending will reach more than US$60 billion by 2025, up from US$12 billion today. Governments currently shoulder more than 75 per cent of this burden but even those with the deepest pockets may not have enough funds in 20 years to pay for the cost of health care.
As GCC countries fashion new health care systems, drastic changes are being made in medical insurance requirements and eligibility for both nationals and expatriate workers.
Gulf governments in the next five to ten years will likely design basic health benefits packages and provide them free of charge to all nationals. In most GCC countries, however, the law now requires companies to provide basic health care benefits, including insurance, for their expatriate workers, who account for 40 per cent to 80 per cent of the population, depending on the country.
The Arab Health Congress features 18 internationally accredited conferences. More than 300 internationally acclaimed speakers will address the Arab Health Congress, which will host more than 6,000 delegates. The conferences are accredited with the American Academy of Continuing Medical Education (AACME).
“Receiving the Gold Seal of Accreditation from the AACME is a significant step forward in the continuous pursuit of high quality healthcare, and to the success of the conferences, being only one of a handful in the world to receive such commendation,” said Simon Page, Director of Healthcare for IIR Middle East, organisers of Arab Health
Arab Health is supported by the UAE Ministry of Health; the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi; and Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services.