An acute lack of pediatric specialists in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) has forced the hospital to temporarily close outpatient services for children, who make up 40 percent of the hospital’s patients.
Zubair Mohamed, Managing Director of Male’ Health Services Corporation – formerly the Chief Executive Officer of IGMH – said that there were only four pediatricians left after many left claiming to have family and personal problems, while others departed on vacation.
Zubair said that low wages and poor allowances were leading doctors to resign and return to their own countries.
”Most of the good doctors we have are from India,” Zubair said.
”They get almost the same salary as if they worked in India, so it’s not worth it for them to work here.”
A recent salary increase for doctors in India has made it even harder for the Maldives to attract and retain qualified medical staff.
Zubair said that the remaining four pediatricians were now working 24 hours on-call in the emergency and IPD units.
”Forty percent of the patients who come to the hospital are children,” Zubair said. ”They are a large group of patients.”
He said that patients hospitalised were now being given more priority than the patients who visited for diagnosis or treatment.
A pediatrician and a second doctor – a talented psychiatric specialist – left the hospital last week on vacation and have not returned.
”They usually leave saying that they have family and personal issues,” Zubair said. ”Only a few directly say that they cannot work for the low salary.”
As a consequence there would be no outpatient pediatric services available this week, he said.
”Hopefully we will get new pediatricians for the hospital very soon and restart services,” Zubair said. ”We need at least six doctors.”
Future of IGMH
When IGMH begins running as a corporation the salaries of doctors will rise and allowances will increase, Zubair promised.
”Right now all the doctors classed are civil servants, ” he explained, ”so we have to follow the regulations of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and cannot provide them the allowances and salary as we would prefer.”
He said the new corporation had held a meeting with the CSC and discussed the matter, and estimated that it would take three months to start IGMH as a health services corporation.
Spokesperson for the CSC Fahmy Hassan said that the Male’ Health Corporation had held a meeting with the commission but ”it was not to discuss the doctor salaries.”
Fahmy said the commission in January asked the Finance Ministry how much they would be able to pay for the doctors salary and said that the commission was not legally authorised to pay any salary the commission wanted.
”We are now paying them the highest possible salary the Finance Ministry has agreed to give,” he said. ”We cannot pay a salary Finance Ministry disagrees with.”
Press secretary for the president Mohamed Zuhair said that the government had nothing to do with the CSC’s code of salary.
”The government will try to solve the problem somehow,” he said.
He said that the salaries of the doctors will increase when IGMH starts running under Male’ Health Corporation, “which was the main reason why we established it,” he said.Permanent Secretary for the Finance Ministry Ismail Shafeeq did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.