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Wed 13 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Saudi pay rise reports ‘exaggerated’

Reports of record pay hikes for expatriate medical staff employed in Saudi Arabia's public sector are in dispute, after a hospital director branded them ‘highly exaggerated'.

Reports of record pay hikes for expatriate medical staff employed in Saudi Arabia's public sector are in dispute, after a hospital director branded them ‘highly exaggerated'.

Dr Mazen Soliman Fakeeh, director general of Dr Soliman Fakeeh private hospital, Jeddah, said news of an 80% pay rise was inaccurate, but added that hospitals across both sectors were being forced to upgrade salaries to keep staff.

"It's an inflated figure," he told Medical Times, "but all hospitals who wish to retain their staff are being forced to increase their salaries."

Khalil Bhaksh, head of recruitment at King Fahd Military Hospital, Jeddah, said the hospital had not received any official notification of new pay scales for expatriate staff, suggesting the increase, if implemented, was unlikely to be in place within the next fiscal month.

"Generally there is no fixed system for increasing the wage - it is usually based on the person, the department and on the market average," he said.

"It depends on nationality and the areas of recruitment - it's not like the private sector."

The statement contradicts comments attributed to Saudi's health ministry that claimed up to 100,000 doctors, nurses and paramedical staff would receive between 15% to 80% more in their pay packets.

Under the reported deal, consultants would receive a minimum monthly salary of up to 36,000 riyals (US$9,613), with annual increments of 900 riyals for each year spent in service.

Many of the Kingdom's public hospitals are already understaffed, as facilities struggled to match wages in the private sector.

Ministry hospitals lose an estimated 10% of their medical staff each year, Dr Fakeeh stated, through rising living costs.

"Inflation had reached 6.5% by the end of 2007," he said. "The attractiveness of Saudi Arabia as an expatriate labour market has diminished."

Dr Dee McCormack, a South african consultant perinatologist formerly employed at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, said Saudi had failed to keep pace with the global demand for healthcare workers.

"Early in the 90s, the salaries offered were significantly higher than most countries," she said, "but they have not kept up. They are not attracting the same calibre of physicians any more."

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