A long-standing nursing shortage in Qatar has been exacerbated by global competition that makes it hard to recruit nurses from abroad, officials have said. The problem is expected to worsen as Qatar opens up a slew of hospitals in the coming years.
Qatar currently has 10,262 nurses, 445 of them Qatari.
The country is facing a “severe shortage of nurses” in part because of low salaries and an inability to train enough nurses at home, the Peninsula reports.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Qatar has 74 nurses per 10,000 people. In comparison, the US has 98, and Norway, the country with the best nurse to population ratio, 319. The global average, however, is 28.
The low ratio is already affecting patient care, with the number of complaints about long waiting times and poor treatment at public and private hospitals here on the rise.
The University of Calgary in Qatar produces some 20 homegrown nurses a year, which is too small a figure to make a difference given the current shortage, Dr. Nabeela Al Meer, Director of the Nursing Department at Hamad Medical Corporation, said in 2010.
Consequently, Qatar has to look abroad to recruit most of the nurses it needs.
The SCH has set a target of a 5:1 patient-nurse ratio, but hospitals are finding it extremely hard to recruit enough nurses to achieve this.
That’s in part because Western countries offer more attractive salaries for foreign nurses, said Dr. Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, director of the Quality Control Department at the Supreme Council of Health (SCH).
The average monthly salary of a nurse in Qatar ranges from QR4,000 to QR10,000, far below average nursing salaries in the US or Europe.
The Peninsula reports that most nurses applying to work in the GCC are either married to men working here or unable to get a job in the West.
Qatar’s National Development Strategy acknowledges the problem:
“The recruitment and retention of quality healthcare professionals are challenging, and the shortage of physicians, nurses and therapists impedes delivery of safe, effective and high-quality healthcare. Meeting future requirements could be difficult considering Qatar’s recruitment and retention needs and the global shortage of healthcare professionals.”
Al Meer told the Peninsula that HMC is currently working on a five-year plan to boost the number of nurses working in Qatar.
But HMC has been talking about a five-year plan since at least 2010, Gulf News reports.
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