LAHORE: Saudi officials have arrived in Pakistan to hire doctors for the Saudi ministries for health and defence and are to interview candidates this month, The Express Tribune has learnt.

The recruitment is being done via the Overseas Employment Corporation, a federal government body under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, according to official documents.
Doctors intending to interview for the jobs said that they were applying because of the high salaries and better working conditions in Saudi Arabia. But a professor voiced concern that the government was facilitating the departure of Pakistani doctors when there was already a shortage of qualified medical professionals here.
Consultants and specialists
The Saudis are looking to hire home healthcare consultants, health education specialists, paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) consultants, anaesthetists, internal medicine consultants and a chief of internal medicine.
An OEC official involved in the hiring process refused to say exactly where the interviews would be conducted, except that there would be separate rounds in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.
He said that as a rough guideline, the candidates for consultants should be Fellows of College of Physicians and Surgeons (FCPS) and have three years of experience. Candidates applying for specialists’ posts should be Members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He added that the Saudi officials had the power to offer jobs and decide salaries on the spot.
“A doctor with FCPS and two years experience would get 16,000 Saudi Riyals (Rs387,774) per month at least,” he estimated. “Doctors with longer experience in a field like anaesthesia can get up to 36,000 Saudi Riyals (Rs872,492) per month,” the OEC official said.
Candidates
A doctor who works at a government hospital in Lahore and who is planning to apply for a specialist job said that his main motivation was money. “I am getting around Rs70,000 a month here and if I go to Saudi Arabia I am likely to get at least Rs450,000. The residence will be provided by the Saudi government. The hiring is on contract and can be extended on performance and request. For me, it’s a good option,” he said.
He said that a benefit of applying via the OEC was that candidates would be secure in the knowledge that the scheme wasn’t a fraud. “If you go through a private firm there is a risk … you may have to pay a hefty amount as a ‘processing fee’,” the doctor said.
A professor at Services Hospital said that another reason Pakistani doctors were quitting the country was the poor working conditions in Pakistan. “I know doctors who came here from abroad to serve the country, but couldn’t stay because people here didn’t let them work. It’s important to know why doctors leave, if you really want to stop them. The government should do a study to find out why good doctors go abroad,” he said.
A professor at Lahore General Hospital voiced concern about brain drain. “There is already a shortage of doctors in several departments, like ICUs, emergency wards and anaesthesia. No matter how hard you work to build your hospitals, you cannot run them without good doctors,” he said. “Instead of doing something to stop the brain drain, the government is facilitating other governments to hire its best doctors.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.