Can you imagine Saudi hospitals without Filipino nurses?

Can you imagine Saudi hospitals without Filipino nurses?


Khaled Almaeena

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.

The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena


  1. Correctly pointed out flaws in the medicare system. Doctors, nurses, and other health professionals should be treated seriously and with respect not for the sake of the expatriate staff who will return back one day but for the sake of improving the healthcare and the health of the Saudi citizens. It is commonsense that you will reap what you will sow. If you fill dirt and muck instead of petrol in your car then how can you expect your car to work? Similarly if you mistreat foreign workers especially in a vital field of health then how can you expect your health services to deliver good healthcare? Believe it or not the most important aspect of a health care worker which is appreciated is not his quality of work but his ability to keep good relations with his supervisors and people all around. Among the highly qualified professional the ones who are paid the least and abused most are doctors.

    • “Among the highly qualified professional the ones who are paid the least and abused most are doctors.”

      In my 15 years of experience as a director of nursing services in three countries, nurses are least paid and most abused. I talk with my staff personally and their concerns are all the same. Salary, lazy co-workers, etc.And for your information, nurses have more interaction than doctors do. Hence, they do the “dirty job” most of the time.

      • Yes, I agree with you. I am a Saudi nurse and I see that nurses in general are disrespected by many people especially in the the Middle East

      • Sad to note that also some of the in charge nurse who are even same expartrate as the Filipinos are abusive they are only charge nurse by post but it’s the Filipino nurses does their job they get the high salary but not doing the job properly and yet acting like he owns the hospital even thevpor cleaners sre treated badly.
        hope this things will be stopped ad this is so in humane.

  2. As usual Khaled has written a masterpiece. As he rightly points out the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa
    sallam came to teach us good manners. Not just Philipino nurses but most poor Asians working
    in Saudi are treated in this manner. As he says if this is what we see and experience in cities
    what about those in the interior.It is sad to see that, in Saudi Arabia the home of Islam, it is
    not being practiced. Islam lays down the rules for treating your servants and employees.
    Islam is is a religion of love and caring and sharing. We are talking all the time but doing nothing.
    As for me where I live amongst non-Muslims I live and practice Islam and when they question me about my treatment of servants and interaction with neighbours,I tell them that I do in obedience
    to Allah,since I will one day will be accountable. Death can come at any moment and as such I
    wish to save myself from the wrath of Allah and His punishment.

    • What poor countries worker in Asia? So funny ismaeel marikar… If no foriegn worker in middle East ..local people there can’t do the job properly and mostly lazy

    • my country (philippines) is not poor it just so happen that there are many thieves and corrupt officials. keep that in mind. we have gold and other minerals, we have natural gas, our soil is fertile enough for vegitation, we are surrounded by the pacific ocean which is our source for marine produces and many more.we have all these enough to supply our country’s needs but the problem is our leaders.

      • Hey Mr. Lee… i completely agree , your country is beautiful and has lots or resource… unfortunately your gouvernment is bad.. your country need a new Jose Rizal 2.0 to fight the corrupted officials etc.. where is the asian tiger in you…

  3. its not just the Filipino nurses.
    Its the overall attitude of the Saudis towards everyone else
    I would differentiate between Arabs and Saudis
    Outside of Saudi Arabia I noticed nothing but compassion, the traditional arab hospitality and behavior towards other people, regardless of religion race or ethnicity.
    Saudis need to stop bringing a bad name to Arabs.

    • what a good word i see in this message, in my exp. here in saudi yes i love Saudi people i found the best character from you oh people of knowledge in deen, a compete good behavior i saw in Saudi people, but still there is Arab people mostly non Saudi acting like ignorance in deen,they are arrogant when they speak, they treated Filipino staff not in proper manner, when it come top salary i think it is not from the saudi people but it is from the management staff who are controlling the salary and some are corrupting the right of staff,i think most of them, are not non saudi Arab.

    • I agree whole heartedly – Arabs outside the “Kingdom” have often showed compassion and mutual respect towards all muslims, but in this country of “Islam” I have always seen extreme racism and disrespect to their fellow muslim brothers and sisters.
      The government and general public feel no shame in mistreating foreigners (the ones they call into the kingdom to help build EVERYTHING), and the general youth have no idea how to treat anyone with respect.

  4. What is happening to foreign workers in Saudi Arabia is just beyond imagination. I always wonder, where did all this arrogance and cruelty came from? ….

  5. Good thing that a Saudi can relate of what Filipino OFW experiencing from his country…i hope that this issue will be resolved not only for hospital staff but also to all ofw that suffering with same problem…pls also checked petromin tnks

  6. not only that.. even our co-saudi nurses are treating us like we’re nothing to them… because they are in higher position, behind our back they are talking bad words. If they need us for a critical or infected pt. they are so kind…. after all the hardwork, we’re forgotten LIKE WE NEVER EXCITED & they are giving them CERTIFICATE FOR WORKING VERY HARD…

  7. These practices have been going on for decades and have contributed to the typical general impression of Arabs as abusive and ill-mannered. Likewise, this affects badly on the Arab countries and then on to Islam. And this impressions are then passed down to the country of origin of the laborers and professionals. The Arabs need be reminded that they are but caretakers of the wealth bestowed upon and should not be arrogant nor abusive.

  8. Assalam Alikum to all. Brother Khaled has pointed out the problems in Saudi society, I strongly applaude his article for the plight of philipina nurses, I would like to urge Saudi intellectuals and prominent people to come forward and influence the Saudi society to correct it self and urge the government to do more to implement equal rights to all people residing in Saudi Arabia, It has to come from the top….

  9. Thank you for this article and Ismaeel Marikar is right…this is indeed a masterpiece written by Mr. Khaled Almaeena. We appreciate his article on recognizing Filipino nurses (including other nationalities) and I am proud of their compassionate service. We have a lot of Filipino nurses friends and hearing their stories how they are serving patients here brings mist in my eyes of how great they are doing even though they are underpaid and working more than the required 8 hours work. And yet they hold on their way.

  10. We Filipino health care provider devote ourselves to serve the people and still we are always facing this kind of degrading morale,dicrimination, verbal and physical abused , salary differences , name it. In my 6 years experience, all of the patient that I handle during hospitalization are very thankful that they are being cared by filipino staff regardless of language barrier etc. I hope the ministry of health realize that staff nurses should have standardization of salary regardless of nationality, We work the same job and why there is difference in salary? Regardless the huge difference with our salary compare to other nationals, we are rendering our best of quality care to our clients/patients. I believed that filipino nurses plays a big role in health care delivery system. Proud oncology nurse.

  11. I’m in Sultanate of Oman, so far in my experiences here when I happen to work in the hospital with my students. The people are very good especially the elderly patients; hospital managers are very helpful, very courteous and respectful. Thank you for recognizing Filipino nurses. It’s very hard to missed our family back home but with people like all of you who treat us like family…THANK YOU…SHUKRAN…ALLAH bless us…

  12. Oh really not all Muslims like you Ismaeel marikar… So tell the government there no need to hire foriegn workers…the sources of talented workers there are from India and Philippines… Can you imagine that…

  13. I respect your concern about expatriates & pray to Allah to support your concern and provide some e intelligence and mind to people for behaving in nice way with nurses those are really sacrificing so many things and serving to needy people

  14. For my 4 years working as a in Saudi Arabia I been experience to be disrespect by Saudi national patient, watcher, supervisor, and Co staff nurse Saudi and being abused physically and verbally despite of hardwork I contribute I even working extra for the company which is not part of my job as I have thought better to help than to be help but Saudi people don’t realize that they were fortunate because of Filipino nurses.

  15. I hope all these will not just be put i to writing. This is a serious matter that has to be acted upon. Discrimation is rampant in that country. They favor white people giving them high salaries eventhough they are lazy and lazy and lacking of knowledge in their field. Buti filipinos who work hard were only given too little than what they deserve. They have proven their worth and still they are left behind by countries favored by arabs. Too bad….

  16. I’m a filipino and thanks for the appreciations and concerns.

    And as to All the Saudis and to the rest of the population, including me, let us kindly learn the virtue of Respect.

    Respect is voluntarily given to those who deserve it. How we treat ourselves is how we treat others. And how we treat others its how others will treat us.

    Respect is the first key to create a peaceful and harmonious workplace and to build a good relationships towards each other.

    Not all are can be equite with money!

    Our reputation is more important than our salary and our integrity is worth than our job.

    And please let us all learn to speak softly and kindly towards one another, regardless of age, gender, race and religion.

    • Yes peace ,love and equality regardless of religion , race, gender ,sexuality and status. Filipino people are so kind and well mannered. They also work hard and all the filipino people i have come across have been nothing but kind and hardworking. It’s appalling how non Arab people are treated by a good share of others..


  18. This is also crime ..They have to work an obligatory 12-hour duty shift with unpaid overtime.
    This is equally prevalent in both the government and private sectors.

  19. Its about time to teach saudi patients,saudi managers to treat respect filipino nurses,in my part i,m lucky enough when i work there 15 yrs ago in king fahad hospital in al gassim buraydah when it open in 1985 i was yhe first filipino nurse pull out from the dispensary clinic in al shamal,buraydah and set up the hospital,its a huge responsibility taking over from the boygues co. Who build the hospital,eventually new nurses came from south korea,from morroco doctors from different countries and most of all alloed health workers fro m united kingdom and few nurses .its was difficult but i dod my best,my saudi director Dr,kattouwah was nice and accomodating giving me the complete trust to set up parts of the hospital then when the hospital was fully operational he left his term was over,a new director came ,it was different then,he favored western nurses to run the hospital and pt becoming rude to us expat nurses,i have o probl with my salary that time,but after 12 yrears of working i finally resign and finish my contract,the saudi govt. Give me all my monies,including idafi and my inrease pay. I am thankful to the min.of health.the reason i left that time is there is no incentive like pension plan o educational advancement,so i hope today is different.i guess some part in the kingdom hospital managers patient as well are still the same,so its up to other filipino nurses to work strive hard finish your contracts and get the hell out of there for the muslim nurses do your umrah,do your hadj then save money and get out from there the united states is a haven for us filipino nurses we are well respected,and trated well verbal abuse from co workers and pt is. Dealt with seriously by the hospital administration.the pay is high and you can work with other hospital

  20. Medical industry is a profitalble bussiness like education and Hotel industry and the services of staff is highly underpaid terrible working hours and no apprecition,sir its not just a philipono staff but rather say expatriate Nurses who’re mostly harrased verbally,

  21. Culture diferrence
    And everyone has a tag on.
    It will take alot of time for all people to accept that we are all have social differences and prespective in life. Im working in retail company which is all staff should smile often but alot of people mistook it as being way of flirting. Feel bad

  22. It is not just Saudis against non-saudis………these days Saudi HR managers indiscriminately firing Saudis from jobs…..they are acting like cronies of top management…….. Situation is hopeless……many talented Saudis looseing jobs because they are becoming objects of envy for other Saudis………..recently several Saudis fired from jobs by a metro contractor. FAST group….n they are all fired by a Saudi HR Manager……they are all making rounds to labor ministry………

  23. I worked in saudi arabia for 3 1/2 years in national guard hospital.I have the best experience there.The only thing is we filipino nurses are being treated as second class nurses,eventhough we are more skillfull than the other foreign nurses there.I worked with nurses from netherlands,austria,south africa and Singapore,but they all earned 3to 4 times what filipino nurses earned.I dont get it,because when my irish manager is on holiday I will be the one to run the unit as a manager.And I the lowest paid nurse has to supervise them in their daily job as a nurse.That is why I decided to leave and now working as nurse in Ireland with the same treatment and salary as the local nurses.I still want to work there as a nurse using my irish passport but ,now they still descriminate us,i still cant get the western salary because they I did not study in western school.I think the problem there is not the saudi people but rather the foreign westerners who are on the higher position along the saudi healthcare system.Saudi people need to wake up,if you only knew the way they treat your people.Even if you ask patients,they do feel more attached to the filipino nurses.i still thank saudi arabia!

  24. Actually some Saudi people should realize the horrible truth. NObody comes here to help a Saudi people primarily. Everyone comes here to get a money from the government. It’s sad,but it’s a true.

  25. Thank you for your article regarding Filipino nurses. My daughter is a nurse in one of your government hospitals and she believes that she dedicate her life serving the people of Saudi.

  26. Great article and accurate description of what goes on in Saudi Arabia. But sadly those Saudis who really need to heed to Khaled’s brotherly advice will never get a chance to read this article.

  27. As I read some of the comments posted I can help but wonder, why in world would you work in a country where you’re treated in a manner that makes your life miserable? Being a nurse myself I know how hard and stressful this job brings but not having support from hospital administration and other staff members and being treated lower than low class I can only imagine. Again I ask why stay? You say the pay is not all that good and you’re treated like a “POS” then leave. Let them fend for themselves. I know Filipinos never want to complain about anything but you need to start standing up for you rights as a human being. Good luck to you all.

    • Well, they have plenty of reasons why they stay. It is easy for us who are not on their shoes to say leave if they are not treated good. We will never understand why they are staying despite of having a miserable life unless we try to put ourselves on their places. Maybe it is the only choice they have to survive in this world. Life is really tough especially on the country where they are from.

    • They stay because most of them get free housing and utilities (laundry, electricity etc) …. and then they live very cheaply trying to spend as little as possible … then they send almost all of their salary home to their families to support them …. to pay for kids education, or a decent home or land for the family to farm and to prosper….. they cant do this in their own country … so they come here, they stay, and they suffer for the sake of their families …. sometimes for many many years, putting their own needs and personal hardships last … for what …. for love of course ….. and I deeply admire them for that

  28. As an Irish nurse educator, of Saudi nursing students, who has lived in Saudi for the past 32 years, I would agree completely with these sentiments but I would include Indian, South African, Chinese and Malaysian nurses, who have all suffered the same indignities.

    • Then reason why the writer have mentioned Filipino Nurses is because they comprise the majority of Nurses in the Kingdom. He could not list all the nationalites of every nurses because he’s going to run out of space if he done that, and yes, he also did mention some expats.

  29. Thank you for appreciating Filipino Nurses working here in KSA. As a nurse even we our work more than beyond our duty hours it is our duty and responsibility, we cannot pass on our unfinished works for our patients. We are trained and taught to deliver optimum care for the patient, even they will humiliate or degrade ourselves we will simply ignore them. It’s not about the money its about how we render care and be professional at all times.

  30. I salute Mr Khaled Almaeena that he raised the voice against misbehaviour of locals to Filipinos, but it is not only Filipinos all other nationals have the same problem with locals.

  31. Thanks for writing this nice article, otherwise situation or local mentality is like that I am only right and entire world is wrong. This kind of mentality is prevailing all over and the problem is not limited only to hospitals, other work places are equally polluted with this kind of mentality.

  32. The most nuisance behavior and bad behavior I have seen in KSA. I resigned the day my colleague was assaulted by a saudi man when he hit the Dr with his footwear and saudis MOH were just looking.all this because my dear friend came all the way to help patient with her file at the reception desk and the husband who was just standing and “girgiring” suddenly saw his wife come out of cubicle shouted twice when my dr colleague just thought of talking to that husband instead she was assaulted.This is the incidence at GILWAH Gen. Hospital and the useless hospital director,a lab technician just ignored it all by saying forgive him it’s during the sacred month of Muharram!
    Is this taught to u all that you can get away with your behavior and do wrong…
    We were not given these nonsensical values by our parents.we were taught gender equality and to respect others unlike stupid and crazy Saudis.

    • Nurses are educated people. They deserve the respect from everyone. Dont think that even they are taking care of you, they are your slaves. I think its time to reverse the positions now. Try to put the filipinos and other expats to a higher position like chief nurses and supervisors. Im sure more quality care can be given. All lazy unrespectful and having untoward attitude should be terminated.

  33. We should be proud of their Accomplishments.
    Dear Mr. Khalid Al-Meena,
    Thanks for publishing the good & real article on the subject. Sometimes we being an Expatriates falls victim of these Nurses due to their Frustration with the daily patients

  34. filipino nurses and other expatriate nurses deserve respect and appreciation. We should treat them as human because they have feelings and emotions as we have. However, misbehaviour is prevalent in each country, so we should conduct awareness campaigns to eradicate this adverse aspect from our society

  35. there shud be independent nursing organisation with lot of human resource power. they shud deal with ministry and make sure, proper standards being applied.

    also … when it comes to salary discrimination .. that is core problem in all kind of organisations .. not only hospitals. ministry of labor has to closely look into salary structures in general and make sure no one in ksa shud face below poverty line and above working hours issues.

    these r the major concerns of normal human being. so human right shud also be involved.

    basically u need proper chain reaction for this. and frankly its missing big time.

  36. What if no foreigners in saudi..what if no foreigners in saudi my experience saudi nurses are lazy to work..even patients don’t like saudi nurses as many told me that..At the same time I can’t tell pr complaint about them because I am working in their country

  37. Really don’t understand why such a genuine personality Mr.Khaled Almaeena ignored the thousands of Indian and other expat nurses working in KSA and partialized with Filipinos. He should have been highlighted the plight of ‘nurses in general’, not alone the Filipinos in particular. Those nurses of other nationalities are also providing equal service to Saudi society and getting the same attitude or sometimes worse. The Caption itself smelling to be fishy.

  38. Mr Khaled Almeena is a man in the real sense of the word. His observations and advices can only make life better for one an all. Keep up the great work, Sir

  39. I beg to differ with the writer about this issue.

    The problem is not directed against “Filipino” nurses specifically ,
    nor it is in “Saudi Arabia” only!

    This is an international issue.

    The inferior look to “Nurses” as a profession is a world wide one and many countries in the world have started social programs, and still does, to improve this look.
    This is clear in many movies and TV shows, be it comedian or Dram.

    As in Saudi Arabia, the nurse as a profession is gaining great respect after having many smart girls from well known respected families joining this profession.

    As for the negative remarks, I think you should see the shouting in the administrative offices!

    Both parties are Saudi!

    The real issue is the frustration felt by the patients as the health care system is suffering major set back.

    Patients now waits for days in the emergency room before gets a bed in a hospital!
    Going to private hospitals is not an option for many with limited resources.

    Many expat nurses have lived in Saudi for more than 20 years, they all appreciate the chance and know the standard of respect they receive from employer and patients alike.

    If a Filipino or a nurse from other nationality, does complain, AFTER staying for such a long time then you have to check the real motive of the complaint!!!

  40. Am sorry to say but this happens in all Arab countries more so in middle East countries. If this people they know that they are have the capacity to do their job then they should have not come for us in our country despite the challenges we are facing.

  41. I used to worked in KSA many years ago. My experienced was no excellent job environment. I have witnessed my colegue being shout out curse and even get physical most are being done by a patients. I left the country with no turning back,, I am now living peacefully in a country and consider it as my home. When I started working in a company here, a month later I received an award for being most skilled and flattered about it, but when I worked in KSA I’ve never receive any award as this and wonder if I am doing my job well..

  42. TO: Ms. Shabbir Thingna,
    It must be qualiQUALITY OF WORK! and thats the most important, try to put your self in bad situation and the health care provider attended you is not that capable of doing the right thing to you but she is nice would you still consider good relation there? i think that the commonsense that you have to think about 😀 good day

  43. Saudi Arabia should be more welcoming to expatriate nurses who are carrying out the majority of the work in hospitals. Even with the saudization plan, the percentage of nurses increase over the past decade was not more than 4 %. This implies that KSA will not be able to replace all expatriate nurses within the coming 20-30 years. Although I am Saudi and I have worked in ICU, I noticed that many Saudi nurses are not willing to work in such areas as burn units, adult ICUs, and other areas. KSA still in need for expatriate nurses, and with the increasing tension in the Middle East and uncertainty, I believe that we must provide better work environment for all nurses to reduce turnover, and one of the strategy is to respect their needs as humans at the first place.

    • Yes, for appreciating the nurses it’s true nobody cares on us always.. only to blame especially those in private hospitals. SOndemanding patients,relatives and even the people running the hospital.That’s the main reason why many are resigning.

  44. I love Saudi Arabia….worked there for almost 5 years as ICU nurse. I may had few encounters with not so good Saudi patients but generally PURE Saudi are really polite, kind, generous… Some locals really act harsh to us sometimes especially if they demand something…they want us to fly within seconds just to get what to want even a tissue…SURA SURA sister I need tissue! hahaha. but if given proper explanation on how to treat us professionally they will eventually follow or respect us human being

  45. Firstly I would like to thank Mr. Khaled for his observations. To be honest all nurses are exposed to this horrible abuse by the Saudi patients ,their families and some staff. At times I wonder how will this country be without expatriates because when you look at some of the citizens of this country, they are lazy, no sense of responsibility, not loyal to their employer. Its about time to teach them respect and responsibility.
    Saudi Nurses want senior posts even if they are not capable for the post and no experience at all.
    Its about time we are allowed to have a body that will take care of the interest of the expatriate nurses and support them.

    Thank you again Mr. Khaled and God bless you

  46. What i dont understand here in the kingdom is western expatriate nurses have higher salaries X 4 or 5 maybe from our salary and they have higher chance to get promoted than us (filipino). Why? And the locals treat filipino nurses as their servants. Most of the patient/relatives are arrogant and rude. Been here for 3 yrs as icu nurse.

  47. it is in the culture of the people who thinks they are superior from others. it is in the wrong sense of expectation that whites are better than the others just because of their color trade mark. saudi media should help educate the saudi people how to treat others fairly and equitably which is in line with the teaching of Quran. the ministry should strictly promote and campaign for respect for those whom they think inferior to them

  48. I agree completely. The healthcare system in Saudi needs to treat all.workers with the same level of respect. I worked in saudi and i was appalled at how the system worked. Everyone does the same job. And the same job brilliantly then should all be paid, not rewarded, the same