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Thu 1 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Hospitals aid learning curve

UAE medical professionals working in the private sector may be in line for better continuing medical education (CME) funding, as hospitals ramp up their educational programmes following last month’s ruling on compulsory CME hours.

UAE medical professionals working in the private sector may be in line for better continuing medical education (CME) funding, as hospitals ramp up their educational programmes following last month’s ruling on compulsory CME hours.

For staff in the private sector, the new regulation raised questions over the costs of educational events, as few

receive time and funding from employers for CME purposes. An established support structure for public sector professionals is already in place.

Now, several hospitals have declared they are reviewing the issue of sponsorship and paid leave, to aid doctors in accruing the CME hours needed for licence renewal.

Advet Bhambhani, CEO of Jebel Ali Hospital, told Medical Times: “As of now, we offer ten days of paid CME leave per year and that’s it. Now that it’s become mandatory, we’re looking into it because now doctors may be travelling abroad more.

“We ourselves are looking into subsidising the cost of seminars, maybe working with providers and bringing speakers in. It provides a great platform for our doctors to get those credit hours within the organisation.”

Dr Andre Wessel, medical director of Welcare Hospital, Dubai, said: “We give all our doctors seven days of study leave per annum to attend a conference or congress of their choice, and that’s over and above their 30 days annual leave.

“We fund doctors if they need financial assistance, and we normally get very good sponsorship from the industry. We also have a similar arrangement in place with our nurses.”

Under the new ruling, private employers are not obliged to offer educational support to staff. Instead, medical professionals are accountable for notching up the necessary CME hours for licence renewal.

Without suitable support from the private sector, doctors expressed concern that they would be solely reliant on industry sponsorship to attend events, particularly as accreditation fees could dissuade employers from holding in-house events. The role of the pharmaceutical industry in CME is a notoriously controversial issue, and firms have been accused of influencing educational agendas to sway prescribing behaviour. Dr Wessel, however, denies any conflict.

“The companies are quite objective,” he said. “I’m a cardiac surgeon, so they may sponsor me to go to

the European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery meeting, which is not directly related to any product.

“The pharmaceutical and device companies in the UAE have signed a code of conduct as far as these sponsorships are concerned. So they are quite strict about funding.”

The move towards enforced CME is part of a bid to bring the UAE closer to internationally recognised healthcare standards. The new system, which was effective from January 2007, is similar to those currently operating in the US, the UK and more recently, Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the change, Dr Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Ghafoor, assistant undersecretary for the Ministry of Health, outlined the reasons behind the move: “Doctors in this country are often unwilling or too busy to attend CME events,” he said.

“With new techniques, new drugs and new equipment, doctors must stay on top of the changes. It is very important for any nurse, physician or technician to attend for the safety of the patients.”

Medical professionals will have a two-year grace period to meet the requirements, Dr Ghafoor added. If by 2009, they are failing to meet the requirements, their licenses will not be renewed.

Under the new requirements, physicians operating under the jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi’s General Authority for Health Services (GAHS) will need to complete 50 hours of CME per year. 25 of these should be category 1 hours, comprising formal learning through recognised educational institutions and

accredited by GAHS or another recognised body. Category 2 activities are classed as self-learning activities, and do not require accreditation. Nurses and pharmacists have been allocated a target of 20 hours, 10 of which should be from Category 1.

In the northern emirates, the Ministry of Health is demanding doctors complete 50 hours per year, 20 of which should be in the field of their speciality. Nurses and pharmacists will be expected to complete 30 hours annually.

At the time of going to press, the Department of Health and Medical Services (DoHMS) had yet to announce annual CME requirements for medical professionals in Dubai.

Final quotas are expected later this year.

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