By: Dr. Jamsheed
Way back in 2004 or 2005, we started witnessing the first obvious increase in the assaults on health professionals. I remember talking about this on a Television Maldives live forum where I urged the government to take it seriously and stop it before it gets out of control, and we find ourselves with insufficient professionals to continue with health services. What we were seeing back then was more of verbal abuses with very few physical assaults. Failure to take measures to prevent it have indeed led to the pathetic situation of today, where there is more of physical and sexual assaults than verbal! Not to say that verbal assault is justifiable, but the gravity of the matter has taken us to a point where there is very real and imminent threat on the continuity of healthcare service in the Maldives.
Maldives is a country, which depends heavily on expatriate health professionals (doctors, nurses and paramedical staff) who will not work here unless they find working in the Maldives attractive and pleasant. We all have to understand that we will not be able to continue the health services without them and that is a reality whether we like it or not. This reality is going to remain with us for a long time, perhaps for generations.
Health professionalâs market is becoming very competitive with abundant job opportunities. Where there is enough and attractive jobs at home, people would usually not work elsewhere, unless the benefits are really high. If you can remember, we had a lot of Sri Lankan doctors in the Maldives, but I donât think you will find a single one now. The reason simply is that they got relatively more attractive jobs back home (a similar scenario is slowly emerging in India as well), so nobody would prefer to come and work here. Of course, there are Sri Lankan doctors working in the developed world, where it is much more attractive than their home country. Can we offer such benefits, even in monetary terms, let alone all the other benefits and social harmony? The answer is NO.
Health professionals in the country are in constant fear: at work, on the streets and at home. Nobody is there to protect them. Law and order have failed pathetically and in many places it is worse than the law of the jungle! People who are working for us, trying to do what they can in resource-limited settings are being gang raped, beaten up, robbed and abused. The law enforcement authorities have failed to ensure the safety of law-abiding citizens and expatriates making the Maldives a safe haven for criminals.
Several expatriate health professionals have left the country for fear of their own safety and many more will leave if this continues. Not even the community has been able to provide security to these helpless people in a foreign soil. Ironically, when they leave under such fears, the same community stands up against the government or service provider for the disruption of services!
We are not rich enough to offer higher or competitive salaries; we donât have equipped facilities for health professionals to work; we donât have an environment for them to learn and grow professionally; there is no workplace safety; there is no security at work or in the society or at home; we donât have the decency to treat people working for us as humans; we are silent to injustice, and vocal and even aggressive with our demands; we donât even respect the basic human rights of âothersâ and still we want them to treat us like respect and serve us as if we are kings! WAKE UP MALDIVES!