Specialists in short supply

Experts have highlighted advancements in emergency medicine but say too few specialists pose a challenge in in the growing sector.

Dr Magdi Mohamed, an emergency medicine specialist, says training staff in the UAE and hiring specialists from other countries might help to ease the burden. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // A lack of specialists poses one of the greatest challenges to emergency medicine in this country, experts warn.
Despite significant advances over the past decade in emergency medicine, there is still a lack of training opportunities and not enough medics interested in the field. 
"The focus needs to be put on training and on developing the emergency department. The design and the equipment in the emergency department also need attention," said Dr Magdi Mohamed, an emergency medicine specialist at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital.
"Training people here and hiring specialists from other countries might help ease the burden. Even within the medical community, many doctors do not understand the importance of emergency medicine and giving this branch more recognition is an important step forward." 
The study, Emergency Medicine in the United Arab Emirates, published in the International Journals of Emergency Medicine this year, found that while there were significant advancements in the field many challenges remained.
"It has been a decade since emergency medicine was recognised as a speciality in the UAE," said the study's co-author Dr Salah Fares, acting head of the emergency department at Zayed Military Hospital.
"In this short time, emergency medicine has established itself and developed rapidly in the UAE. 
"The speciality is advanced in its training programmes and systems of care compared with most Middle East countries, but it is still in its infancy compared with North American systems.
"Currently, fewer than 10 per cent of practising emergency physicians in the UAE are residency trained."
In 2008, there were only 1.93 physicians for each 1,000 peoople in the country. Now it is estimated there are 1,000 physicians in emergency departments across all the emirates, Dr Fares said.
"About 50 of them are emergency medicine physicians with western qualifications or board certification. As can be expected, these specialists are based in the larger, well-established emergency departments and trauma centres in the UAE."
Most emergency departments are staffed largely with expatriate physicians trained in medicine or surgery, he said.
"Tasking a handful of emergency medicine consultants to change entrenched mindsets to enable untrained emergency medicine physicians to diagnose, stabilise, and treat complicated patient presentations will be a significant, possibly insurmountable, challenge," Dr Fares said.