A nursing crisis?

NURSES form the backbone of any health-care system. For, besides doctors, they not only offer care and comfort but also serve as role models for good health care.

So the current shortage of nurses in the UAE is disturbing to say the least. Because this shortage could have a crippling effect on the entire health sector. The nurse-patient ratio in the UAE falls way short of international standards. A 1:5 ratio for general wards, and 1:1 or 1:2 ratio for Intensive Care Units (ICUs) is what the internationally-accepted norm shows. In the UAE, this ratio has dropped to as low as 1:10 for general wards and 1:4 in the ICUs.

Clearly, the situation calls for an emergency and effective response. However, market forces may well be playing a spoilsport. With the current skyrocketing prices of basic commodities and the spiralling cost of living, many nurses are opting to leave for what they consider as "greener pastures" in the West. The UAE, for a large number of them, acts as a "jump-off" point, where they come, work for a brief while, and then push off.

As a result, many of the hospitals are forced do with whatever staff they have; they rotate their doctors and nurses so as to make up with any imbalance in the nurse-patient ratio. But such measures can only be temporary ones. They cannot be construed as long-term solutions.

With more and more people falling under the umbrella of compulsory insurance now, more families are now turning up at the hospitals. And, this number is bound to swell as more and more insurance-covered workers flock to the hospitals. Many of the hospitals are now pushing for enhanced benefits — increased salaries and improved recruitment system for nurses. That could be a good move. But clearly, more needs to be done to attract the nurses to the UAE, and to encourage them to stay longer.

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