Medical professionals not ‘free’ to work in any emirate

Dr Hatem Faraj Al Ameri, Dr Khaled Al Jaberi and Dr Marwan Mohammed Al Mulla, head of credentialing and licensing at Haad. — Supplied photo
Medical professionals may not be ‘free’ to work in any emirate under the unified licensure agreement that came into effect on October 12.
Two-year clinical experience waived
Olivia Olarte-Ulherr
abu dhabi — Graduates of health-related courses in colleges and universities in the UAE are now exempted from the two-year clinical experience requirement as per the new professional qualification requirements (PQR).
“For non-locals we require a two-year experience before they get a license (post) internship... But now, we can waive these two years under one condition, if they spent the first two years of their experience (supervised) in a secondary or tertiary hospitals,” said Dr Khaled Al Jaberi, director of Health Regulation at the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (Haad).
He was speaking on Sunday about the newly-implemented unified licensing process by the three health authorities — Ministry of Health (MoH), Haad and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) — which was activated this month.
Previously, expat students had to go abroad to gain experience in their respective medical field before coming back to get a license to practice here. With the PQR, the health authorities have opened up opportunities for them to practice their profession here immediately after graduation and this is applicable in all healthcare-related fields including nurses, physicians, allied health and pharmacists.
The PQR, which is now posted on the DHA and Haad websites, also noted under special considerations that UAE nationals “are not required to have clinical experience post internship.”
The PQR, which came into effect starting October 12, is expected to unify not only the qualification requirements of the healthcare sector but also to unify the titles among healthcare professionals — meaning, a consultant in Dubai should have similar qualification to a consultant in Abu Dhabi.
“The priority here is the patients and the quality of care they are receiving,” Dr Al Jaberi pointed out.
“The main aim of the process is to unify. A patient going to a physician in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (would) at least know that both doctors are equally efficient.  We put  a benchmark so that somebody has to be within that qualification to be a consultant,” added Dr Hatem Faraj Al Ameri.
Another important aspect of the PQR is the revised years of experience required for doctors in the Tier 2 category — this was reduced from eight years to five years. Tier categories are based on the countries where degrees or qualifications were attained.
Tier 1 includes countries where medicine programmes were well-structured and more rigorous, so the requirements of the years of experience post qualification are lower (two years) than the Tier 2 countries. They include the American board specialities, Canada some degrees in the UK and South Africa.
In the PQR, new titles were also added including the laser and hair implants technician, provided they work in a clinic and medical centres.
“With this unification requirement, every candidate is given three chances to pass the exam all over the different healthcare facilities or healthcare authorities,” Dr Al Jaberi said.
With the new PQR, processing of license is also hastened. It now takes one week up to 40 days compared to 180 days (6 months) previously. Fast track processing is also applied for specialities where there is a gap.
According to Haad, there are now about 43,000 healthcare professionals in their system and they process between 5,000 and 8,000 new licenses every year; 50 per cent of these are nurses while 20 to 35 per cent (2,000-3,000) are physicians.
For the three quarters of this year, Haad already processed about 22,000 application transactions compared to 17,000 in 2013.
“This is a good sign that people would like to work in the healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi,” Dr Al Jaberi concluded.
This could come as a dampener to healthcare professionals who have been seeking to transfer or expand their practice to another emirate since the initial announcement of a unified licensing procedure by the Ministry of Health and Dubai and Abu Dhabi (DHA and Haad) health authorities in 2012.
On Sunday, officials said ‘part-time’ work in another emirate would only be allowed in special cases and only if the relevant authority approved of it since ‘free movement’ is against the country’s labour laws.
Haad officials said the agreement pertains primarily to the unified professional qualification requirements (PQR), which are now standardised across the three health facilities.
Under the unified process, a medical practitioner who fulfilled the PQR in one emirate and wants move to another healthcare facility in another emirate can apply for a licence in that emirate without having to re-sit the examination.
“If he has a licence in Dubai, he cannot come here and we cannot issue him another licence. This is pertinent to the labour law,” said Dr Hatem Faraj Al Ameri, manager of Health Professionals Licensing at Haad.
Dr Layla Al Marzouqi, Head of Clinical Governance Office, DHA Health Regulation Department said: “The professional has to take permission from the respective authority to be able to work in another emirate.”
She said that though certain specialties from the private sector could be allowed to work part time, doctors working for government departments could not.
“The licensure procedure has been made easier and faster through this unified system since professionals do not need to take different exams for each health authority in case they want to change their workplace,” she said.
According to Dr Khaled Al Jaberi, director of Health Regulation at Haad, the Ministry of Labour rule on residency and sponsorship still applies and medical professionals cannot work outside their sponsor.
However, “special consideration” may be granted for a doctor to practice in another emirate but only for the branch hospital of his sponsor and only for “very special cases, and very good and strong reason.” The whole case should be justifiable to do it, he added.
“The word transfer is a bit misleading for health professionals,” said Dr Hatem Faraj Al Ameri.
“Transferred licence means the first licence is not valid anymore. It is like applying again for the same process. If you fulfill all the requirements, the exam which is usually the major part, 50 per cent of the process, is going to be eliminated,” he explained.
“According to the labour law, you cannot work in two places ... (so) they have to decide exactly where they want to work,” he pointed out.
Since the announcement in 2012, a number of healthcare professionals who contacted Khaleej Times had said they were waiting eagerly for implementation of the system but had been told by health authorities that it would not allow them to work in another emirate.