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Nurse short-staffing in Bahrain

January 30, 2006 -- Today the Gulf Daily News ("The voice of Bahrain") posted a short piece by Soman Baby about a severe shortage of nurses in the accident and emergency department at a local hospital. The article, "SMC stretched by nurse shortage," makes some good points about how a lack of nurses affects patient care, and about factors that may influence nurse staffing.

Most of the piece consists of reported complaints by Salmaniya Medical Complex chairman Dr. Nabeel Al Ansari about the lack of nurses in the hospital's ED. Dr. Al Ansari is quoted as saying that the department needs 192 nurses, but has only 92--a vacancy rate of over 50%. He blames "bureaucratic delays" at the Civil Service Bureau, which apparently controls relevant paperwork. Dr. Al Ansari notes that he does not care whether the nurses are Bahrainis are not--evidently only 50 of the 92 current nurses are--because he does "not want to risk patients' [lives] on the basis of a nationality issue." We applaud this linkage of nursing and life-saving. Dr. Al Ansari also notes that the government has taken steps to resolve a shortage of physicians. Apparently the department now has 42 of the 45 physicians it needs, including eight recently recruited from Egypt and India. Dr. Al Ansari notes that he finds the nurse staffing situation "really frustrating," and says that he "cannot wait anymore. The authorities can recruit nurses temporarily through nursing agencies until the formalities for recruiting permanent staff are completed."

The piece also includes some discussion of the specific effects of a lack of nurses. Dr. Al Ansari explains that the current nurses have to work double shifts and overtime:

They are overloaded and it affects the quality of our services...If we go through the complaints about the department and study the reasons, it can be traced back to shortage of staff. The complaints include delay in certain services, or patients being sent for x-rays without a nurse to accompany them. [Though there should be one nurse for every four urgent cases, b]ecause of the staff shortage, our emergency cubicles have only one nurse per every 16 patients. For extreme emergency cases in the resuscitation room, we have only one nurse for every three or four patients, whereas, according to international standard, there should be one or two nurses per patient.

Of course, there is certainly more to say about the effects of short-staffing, including its key role in nursing burnout and turnover. Moreover, nurses themselves are often good sources of information about nursing. But the overall tenor of the discussion and Dr. Al Ansari's almost desperate pleas do underline the importance of sufficient nursing staff to patient care. And his comments about the more aggressive actions taken to resolve the shortage of physicians suggest that some may not see good nurse staffing as being the high priority that he does.

We thank Soman Baby and the Gulf Daily News for this article.

See the article "SMC stretched by nurse shortage" by Soman Baby in the January 30, 2006 edition of the Daily News of Bahrain.

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