DUBAI: Medical professionals in Dubai's government-run hospitals are making a beeline for Abu Dhabi and private hospitals for better pay, a source said.

While the exact numbers are unknown, around 20 nurses and "several" specialists have already quit in the last few months - or are set to leave, the source added.

A spokesperson from Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA) acknowledged the recent staff movements - but declined to call it "brain drain". "While some doctors have left DHA to join the private sector, we still have highly qualified specialists. Overall, we have a high staff retention rate."

"It's true that Abu Dhabi hospitals and private clinics offer more attractive packages," a specialist government doctor in Dubai said. "Otherwise, no one would move out of his or her comfort zone."

An oncologist from a Dubai government hospital who recently moved to Abu Dhabi is the fourth staff to resign in the last few months from the hospital.

Specialist doctors get up to Dh80,000 a month in some of Abu Dhabi's medical institutions. Meanwhile, experienced nurses here are also chasing higher pay abroad or in Abu Dhabi's government or private hospitals and clinics.

"The entry-level salary of an experienced nurse in a government hospital in Dubai is around Dh7,500, which is quite good," said a senior nurse in Dubai. Government institutions in Abu Dhabi and private hospitals, however, offer a starting pay of Dh12,000. "Leaving it [salary] is not brainy," a medical ICU nurse for a government hospital said.

However, not everyone wants to leave government jobs. "I shall stay in Dubai because I'm used to life here and serving our people. A new place brings with it many unknown things," an Emirati medical specialist said.

One factor for staying, he said, is that specialists in Dubai are also allowed to do private practice.

Head-hunters, meanwhile, are bringing in a steady stream of specialists from the West. Professional Placement, a UK-based recruitment firm, liaises with hospitals and clinics in the Emirates to bring "more and more" international physicians and specialists from the West.