Expat doctors have welcomed a move to prioritise hiring Bahraini medics in the nation’s private healthcare sector under a new Bahrainisation drive approved by the National Assembly.
However, they said lack of public confidence and a shortage of experienced Bahraini doctors willing to work in the private sector could delay the move.
The Shura Council on Sunday passed amendments to the 2015 Private Medical Establishments Law, approved by parliament last year, under which efforts will be made to prioritise hiring Bahraini medics over expatriates in hospitals and clinics in the country.
Agreeing that the move was “logical”, representatives of private hospitals and senior expatriate doctors said fresh Bahraini graduates should be equipped with hands-on training and display a willingness to rise up to the challenge if they were to gain patients’ confidence.
The law obliges hospitals and clinics to present their employment requests to authorities concerned and only if qualified Bahrainis are not available would they be allowed to hire expatriates.
The amendments also state that a Bahraini should be qualified and have experience to replace an existing expatriate doctor, nurse or other medical personnel and administrative staff when existing contracts expire.
“A labour market-centric move may not necessarily imply a safe medical practice,” cautioned Aster Clinics Bahrain business head Abhik Roy.
“I have tried to recruit Bahrainis but among the hurdles faced are: not enough experienced candidates and/or an unwillingness to work in the private sector.
“Some leave within three to six months once they receive a call from the public sector.
“Besides, patients do not prefer inexperienced medics.”
He suggested that the employer should be allowed to specify the number of years of experience required to take up a position, to ensure a safe and sustainable medical practice in the private sector.
He also said selection should be based on past performance, adding that all Bahraini doctors should be trained by the Health Ministry under leading doctors for at least five years before they are allowed to work in the private sector.
Mr Roy, however, pointed out that medical costs in the private sector could rise in case of delays in recruiting suitable and qualified personnel.
“It is simple logic that employment opportunities should be offered to Bahrainis first before being offered to an outsider,” said American Mission Hospital (AMH) chief operations officer Arun Govind.
“But this depends on the availability of employable Bahraini medics who are experienced.
“Private healthcare is always looking for the best possible candidate to fill a vacancy.
“In my 16 years of experience in Bahrain, I haven’t seen enough experienced medics except in the past five years when the availability went up due to senior medics moving from public to private sector.”
He added that the skills required from a clinician were different from non-clinical staff and it would be more “affordable” for the private sector to employ the latter.
Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) accident and emergency chief resident Dr P V Cheriyan welcomed the move but stressed Bahrain would definitely need expatriate doctors in certain specialised fields.
“Some local doctors are being trained under experienced and qualified expatriate doctors, with many going to Canada, Australia, the US or the UK to get verifications – returning to take up jobs as consultants.”
He pointed out that the law called for “priority”, not complete replacement.
Another senior SMC resident said new Bahraini graduates needed “hands-on experience”, and to gain patients’ confidence.
“The Bahraini medics are trained on cadavers on virtual platforms, which is not enough; anatomy of a human body cannot be learnt on computer,” said the Indian doctor.
“We have seen patients, both in the public and private sector, asking about the doctor on duty, clearly showing that they want to make a choice, based on experience and confidence.”
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