A man getting his heart beat checked by a doctor. Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Professionals with the right medical experience and background are currently being sought after to fill health care positions in the UAE and other member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Reports have it that the medical industry is struggling to find suitable talent because the region does not produce enough medical graduates to meet the growing population.

The problem on talent shortage is likely to continue, especially since new hospitals are being planned, existing facilities are eyeing to expand, and global brands are looking to gain local market share.

Human Resources (HR) specialists predict that there will be more demand for experienced or high-calibre individuals in the area of cardiology, surgery or radiology, among others.

According to reports, the amount of medical graduates within the region does not match the growth of the population, so health care providers source most of their clinical staff from foreign countries. It is estimated that foreigners constitute 80 per cent of the physicians in some GCC markets.

A recent Colliers report said that in the UAE alone where the population is expected to exceed 14.5 million by 2018, there is a shortage of doctors and nurses. The country currently holds one of the lowest ratios for nurses (2.7 for every 1,000 people) across the GCC, surpassed by Saudi Arabia.

Other analysts also estimated that the demand for medical treatment in the GCC will jump considerably over the next two decades. More health care professionals will be needed in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Roman Weidlich, director at Towers Watson Middle East, said that the current shortage and root cause is common to many roles. Staffing strategies of health care providers often do not reflect the limited labour supply within the GCC, and it is common practice for companies to “poach” from other providers rather than actively source their own talent.

“Such practice results in people moving around but not in a desired reduction of openings overall,” he told Gulf News.

Weidlich said that with the opening of new hospitals and expansion of existing ones, there is currently a high demand for medical professionals across all job categories.

“In Saudi Arabia alone, the number of hospitals is expected to increase by 100 plus within the next three to five years. In the longer term, the increased demand will continue in areas related to treatment of illnesses with increased frequency over time such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” Weidlich explained.

“Increased competition and presence of higher number of global brands will increase demand for high-end specialists, among others, in cardiology, surgery or radiology, as well as technicians and other allied health professionals,” he added.

Weidlich acknowledged that the number of local nationals working in the medical industry is typically below the averages in developed countries. Part of the reasons could be cultural and social dynamics.

“For example, nursing is generally perceived as female occupation which limits the available labour pool. Furthermore, in Saudi, a requirement to arrange for private transportation for local female employees lowers incentive to take up these jobs,” he added.

In order to address the existing and future shortages, talent health care providers need to again look at their workforce plan and set realistic sourcing strategies.

“They need to clearly articulate employee value proposition (monetary and non-monetary) to leverage on their strength and business model. This often requires segmented approach to various employee groups, such as the example of female employees in Saudi Arabia,” Weidlich said.

Other industry experts, however, suggest increased focus on education and learning to produce more top specialists. “At a policy level, career advancement opportunities should be implemented to increase specialisation. To produce high-calibre, competent medical specialists, maintenance of existing skills and development of new skills should be encouraged,” said Dr Amer Ahmad Sharif, managing director of Dubai Healthcare City, in a statement.