Doctors' pay rise 'prone to abuse'

A recent scheme to increase the salaries of a limited number of specialist doctors at federal hospitals is "unfair and prone to favouritism", a member of the FNC said yesterday.

DUBAI // A recent scheme to increase the salaries of a limited number of specialist doctors at federal hospitals is "unfair and prone to favouritism", a member of the FNC said yesterday. Dr Aisha al Roumi, a council member from Sharjah, criticised the Ministry of Health's recent decision to award pay raises to doctors with vital specialisms, leaving other doctors with meagre salaries.

The FNC criticised the Government in December for allowing a mass migration of doctors from federal hospitals to those run by the private sector and emirate-level governments. "They [the Ministry of Health] say that the raises are only for doctors that hospitals can't afford to lose, and that this is a temporary measure," said Dr al Roumi. "But this is unfair and is prone to favouritism. It has only increased the frustration of other doctors."

Dr al Roumi said the past three years had seen a significant number of doctors lured away from federal hospitals by higher salaries at private and local hospitals. As a result, she said, federal hospitals - most of which are in the Northern Emirates - lack equipment as well as specialists including neurologists and pediatric and heart surgeons. There is also a shortage of nurses and administrative staff, Dr al Roumi said.

The FNC is due to discuss health policy today. Hanif Hassan, the Health Minister, is scheduled to attend the session, which will include questions to federal ministers on issues ranging from higher education to the judiciary system. The Health, Labour and Social Affairs Committee, of which Dr al Roumi is a member, will present a report to the chamber on the issue. "Doctors are frustrated because their salaries are meagre," she said. "They're overloaded with work and some also have to perform administrative work because of a lack of administrative staff."

Humaid Obaid al Tayer, the Minister of State for Financial Affairs, admitted in December that the Ministry of Health needed more funds, adding that it needed to improve its budget distribution. He said a hospital with 80 beds was running on the same budget as a 200-bed hospital. FNC members said that if the ministry was serious about staunching the exodus of medical staff, it would borrow money if necessary. Dr al Roumi said a misallocations of health funds meant some department had bigger budgets than they needed.

However, she added: "Officials say you can't re-allocate surplus to other departments." An FNC report on the federal accounts for 2008 showed the Ministry of Health had used 48 per cent of the Dh330m allocated for initiatives including preventative medicine and health awareness. mhabboush@thenational.ae

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