A few months ago at a local hospital, I observed how some Saudi patients were behaving with the nurses, ordering them around and using language which can only be described as foul.
I happened to discuss this with a business friend of mine who owns several clinics and he too had complaints about the behavior of some clinic visitors.
In the last two weeks, I have had to go to a couple of hospitals and I chanced to talk to some of the Filipino nurses who were at first hesitant to disclose their plight. However, in those encounters some of them opened up and told me some very disturbing stories of the verbal abuse that they have been subjected to and the arrogant attitudes of some patients. This is unbecoming of us as we are supposed to be followers of Islam a religion that teaches us to be compassionate and to show mercy to all mankind. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent to teach us noble manners and to guide us to do good deeds. Unfortunately, from what I have heard many Saudi patients need to be taught good manners and hospital managers need to learn work ethics and need lessons on how to behave toward their colleagues and staff.
Sadly, some of the trials and tribulations that nurses experience are totally unacceptable and need to be corrected and stopped. Topping the list of grievances is the discrimination in salary and inequality in the treatment of nursing staff. Filipino nurses feel humiliated and underpaid.
They have to work an obligatory 12-hour duty shift with unpaid overtime.
This is equally prevalent in both the government and private sectors.
One Filipina nurse said: “Our supervisors do not show any respect to us” and “are oblivious to our dedication beyond the call of duty”. She explained how written hospital policies concerning their basic rights are not implemented.
To me this is very disturbing. These nurses come from faraway places to serve us and the least that can be done is to show them fair treatment.
In some cases verbal abuse is followed by physical abuse as well, and unfortunately, those in charge often fail to speak up and defend the right of nurses to be treated with dignity and self-respect.
I cannot help but wonder: if this is what happens to expatriate nurses in cities and in towns, then what is their situation in remote regions of the country? In most cases if a nurse objects to disruptive behavior and confronts her sponsor, it is held against her and she could be deported.
I believe we should conduct awareness campaigns to highlight the plight of Filipino nurses and other expatriate nursing staff who deserve to be shown more appreciation for doing a great job. They work selflessly with dedication against heavy odds and live in difficult conditions and do not earn a proper salary.
The nursing staff and especially the ICU professional staff are just as important as doctors, if not more so. They are valuable professionals and should be treated as such. Can you imagine Saudi hospitals without Filipino nurses? What would happen? Our medical system would grind to a halt and our hospitals would have to shut their doors.
Hospital owners and the Ministry of Health should dedicate a special day to express their gratitude and appreciation to these modern-day Florence Nightingales.