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Wed 14 Dec 2011 09:57 AM

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Pay jump needed to attract Emirati nurses

Ministry of Health wants nationals to make up 25% of UAE’s nursing workforce by 2020

Pay jump needed to attract Emirati nurses
Less than 10 percent of nurses in the UAE are Emirati

Higher wages and better working conditions are essential if the
UAE is to boost the number of Emirati nurses in its hospitals, a Ministry of
Health official said Tuesday.

The Gulf state wants UAE nationals to account for a quarter
of its nursing population
by 2020, a target it may miss if hospitals fail to ramp
up incentives, the authority’s director of nursing said.

“Part of attracting Emiratis into nursing is to have an
attractive package, so we need to look at [salaries],” Fatima Al Rifai told
Arabian Business. “There are a lot of opportunities in the country right now,
so for Emiratis to select nursing, they should see the benefit. They should see
an attractive package in relation to salary and also the environment they are
working in.”

The MOH estimates that less than 10 percent of nurses in the
Gulf state are Emirati, and has long pushed for local citizens to enter the sector
by offering state scholarships and other sweeteners.

Of the 18,000 nurses in the
country, most are sourced from Asian countries such as India and the
Philippines, with wages starting at just AED10,000 per month.

Experts say Emiratis have been deterred by the stigma
surrounding the profession, combined with a lack of worker appreciation, low
wages and long, anti-social hours.

Within the seven emirates, Sharjah has the highest
percentage of national nurses at around 13 percent. In Umm Al Quwain, only four
of the emirate’s 212 nurses are nationals.

A recent report by the Abu Dhabi health authority (HAAD)
said just one in 25 nurses in the UAE capital was Emirati, where the ratio
should ideally be one in four.

“I believe having [more] Emirati nurses within the nursing
workforce will enhance nursing - it have an effect on the quality of care,”
said Al Rifai.  “[Expats] are providing
good care, but this cannot be sustained forever; we need to develop a sustainable
workforce of Emirati nationals.”

Continuity of medical care was also a concern that stemmed
from relying on a largely transient, expatriate workforce, she said.

“Emirati nurses are in a better position to introduce change
and innovation, and they will be able to provide more culturally adequate and
relevant care, because of their cultural understanding.”

Analysts agree the solution depends on higher salaries, but
fear the risings cost of wages could put a significant dent in the UAE’s
healthcare budget.

“I order to lure people to take up nursing jobs, the
government will have to offer higher remuneration,” said Dr Aajay Sharma of research
consultancy Frost and Sullivan. “However, this move will definitely spell an
added drain on the healthcare costs.”

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