UAE job scam: Healthcare group hires 90 stranded nurses from Kerala
41 health care workers have joined VPS Hospitals across the country.
At least 90 healthcare workers from Kerala, who fell prey to a job scam, have been hired by a leading UAE-based health care group.
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Since October last year, nurses from Kerala, the southernmost Indian state, who have been arriving in the UAE in batches, were getting stranded in the country after recruiters refused to keep their end of the bargain.
The nursing professionals — both men, and women — were arriving in the UAE after paying upwards of Dh10,000 after being promised jobs in Covid-19 vaccination and testing centres.
For many, the months-long ordeal came to an end late last week after leading hospitals came forward to offer them jobs. Since many of the nurses arrived in the UAE without licences, which is mandatory in the UAE, hospital groups will work as patient aides and service assistants until they have the valid documents in place that make them eligible to work in the country.
Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, the founder, chairman, and managing director of VPS Healthcare Group, said 41 nurses have already begun working in medical centres and hospitals and added that 49 more would be joining soon. Top management at the group said they began receiving job applications and inquiries from nurses over the past four weeks.
Sanjai Kumar, the chief human resources officer at VPS Healthcare, said the group had recently selected eligible candidates through an interview that was held in keeping with the extraordinary circumstances the desperate job-seekers found themselves in.
"We’ll be initiating and assisting them in processing the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) licenses. In addition to those who have already joined us, 49 more will be joining our medical team after the issuance of employment visas. All the relevant expenses, including their RT-PCR tests and the usual regulatory expenses, are being taken care of by VPS Healthcare as a special case," said Kumar.
"We’ve given special consideration to eligible healthcare workers who have been trapped for a long time and are facing financial difficulties," he added.
Help pours in
Other healthcare groups have also come forward to offer jobs.
Dr Sanjay Paithankar, the managing director of Right Health, confirmed the group has hired a total of 25 stranded health worker workers into their clinics since the scam came to light last week.
Michael Brenden Davis, the chief executive officer of NMC Healthcare, said, "We'd like to invite nurses who have been affected by this situation to apply directly to our nursing talent acquisition team for review and consideration."
He added, "We’re unable to guarantee job placements without proper diligence. However, our team is anxious to review resumes of those affected to assess if we would be in a position to help."
Aster DM Healthcare has also advertised a walk-in interview for the nurses. Qualified individuals with a Bachelor's of Science (B.Sc) and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) degree, and non-licensed candidates with a minimum of two years of work experience in a recognised and accredited hospital, are encouraged to apply.
Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman and Managing Director of Aster DM Healthcare, said, “We’re ready to hire whoever is qualified and having sufficient experience with or without a health care worker’s licence. However, they should be able to perform well in interviews. If they don’t have a licence, we can start processing their visa and also support them through the process to obtain the licence.”
Dr Moopen's company has a requirement of up to 300 nurses in two hospitals in Dubai and Sharjah that will become operational soon.
'Months of uncertainty have come to an end'
Ambily MB, a health care worker, one of the many stranded in the UAE after falling victim to a job scam, is heaving a sigh of relief. Her plight after three months of uncertainty has finally come to an end.
Ambily had worked in India's medical and surgical ward for seven years before she arrived in the UAE in March with high hopes. These hopes soon turned to dread as, along with many other nurses, Ambily realised that she had fallen prey to a job scam.
"I was working as a registered nurse in a leading hospital in Kerala. I came to the UAE with high hopes but was shocked when I found out about the scam. I paid Dh10,000 to the recruitment agency."
She added, "The agency didn’t return a single penny. I cannot go back to India with empty hands as my family is struggling to pay back the money we arranged to pay the agent."
Ambily, a native of the Kottayam district in Kerala, said, "This job has come as a blessing to me. I’m confident that I would clear the procedures to obtain the medical licence. Also, I am happy to be back at work when our services are needed for the community." Like Ambily, most of the nurses paid for their arrival in the UAE after taking out bank loans.
Ambily, the mother of a seven-year-old child, came to the UAE along with her sister Asha MB hoping to tide over her family's financial crisis. The recruitment company promised to pay Dh4,500 a month, along with accommodation and food. VPS Healthcare has offered Asha a job as well.
Reena Rajan, the nurse from Kollam, who appealed to Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan in writing, requesting justice for what happened to her, told Khaleej Times she has been interviewed by a leading medical group in the UAE and is expecting to receive a job offer soon.
Indian media reports said Kerala Police took the owner of Take Off, the Ernakulum-based agency responsible for the alleged scam, into custody on Saturday, May 22.
Modus-operandi of the scam
The scamsters posted job vacancies in vaccination and testing centres in UAE on social media. Interested nurses were told they did not need a licence for these jobs as they would not be placed in hospitals.
"The recruiters made big promises through social media job posts. They said we would get work at the vaccination centres immediately after the quarantine period, and the licence was not an issue. They tricked all of us. When asked 20 days later, they simply fibbed," said Asha.
Since the nurses arrived on visit visas, they were given Dh5,000 cash in hand by the recruiters as show-money to immigration authorities in the UAE. Once they came out of the airport, the nurses were asked to hand over the money to local agents as part of their commission fee.
Amrutha Antony, another nurse who has found a job with VPS Healthcare, said, "We were told we do not have to write the HAAD or DHA exams. I spent upwards of Dh11,000 to come to the UAE. After we arrived here, we were taken to a congested apartment in Ras Al Khaimah. We were told that we’d have to wait till the quarantine period was over to join the vaccination centres.
"Some days, they argued with us over how much food and water we were consuming. Eventually, when we began questioning them, they asked us to work as nannies, and most of us were unwilling to take up such a low-paying job.”
Officials have warned health care workers to beware of job scams. "Candidates should verify the information related to the institution and apply only after confirming the authenticity of the advertisement," said Rani Elsa Oommen, the chief nursing officer at VPS Healthcare.
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