LONG hours and low perks along with the tough conditions set by the Ministry of Health for Saudi female pharmacists working in the country’s healthcare institutions have pushed the Ministry of Labor and Social Development into a tight corner. The situation is especially so after the Labor Ministry issued a directive asking private pharmacies to employ Saudi female pharmacists.
A number of Saudi women pharmacists told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the salary offered by private pharmacies is 50 percent less than what is earned by pharmacists in the public healthcare institutions although the work hours and job responsibilities are almost the same for both. They said the workday can stretch more than nine hours.
The Ministry of Labor had announced the launch of the third phase of its women’s employment program with the focus shifting to jobs in private pharmacies.
Fatima Hazazi, a pharmacy graduate of Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, said she encountered insurmountable difficulties in finding a job as a pharmacist in the private or public health institutions.
“I have been looking for a job for so long with no luck. The salary of a pharmacist in the public sector is way higher than what is offered in the private sector. There is a huge difference. Besides, the work hours are pretty long. In the public sector, a pharmacist works for six hours a day,” she explained, adding that she hopes she would find a job that suits her academic qualifications and capabilities in the public sector.
She insists that the private sector does not offer Saudi pharmacists any perks or incentives.
Another Saudi pharmacist who graduated as pharmacist from a public university said she faced similar difficulties finding a job matching her academic qualifications.
“There is a shortage of pharmacists in government hospitals, yet there are no job opportunities. Most of my colleagues work in the private sector but they have not given up the search for a job in the public sector. The private pharmacies do not offer any perks or raises to the Saudi pharmacists,” she said, while requesting anonymity.
Waad Al-Hajjaji, a female pharmacist, who also graduated from Umm Al-Qura University, has a different opinion.
“I did not face any difficulty in finding a job in the private sector. In fact, the private sector offers good salary but not many incentives. You will get a salary in addition to medical insurance. The nature of work in the private sector is different in terms of dispensing of prescriptions and quality control,” Al-Hajjaji said.
Sarah Al-Qarni, who graduated from Ibn Sina University as clinical pharmacist, said she had great difficulty in finding a job in the public sector.
In her opinion, many private pharmacies offer higher salaries than the government-run ones. She aspires to head a pharmaceutical division in a private business.
A Saudi pharmacist working in a government hospital in Jeddah said male and female pharmacists get the same salary in the public sector. He said there is a real shortage of qualified pharmacists.
“Pharmacists should be given more perks and incentives in view of the nature of their work. There is no doubt the public sector offers job security and stability, high salary, social insurance and promotion. However, compared to other jobs in the medical field, the salary is low, which is a disadvantage,” she said.
A female pharmacist working for King Faisal Specialist Hospital said self-operating programs for military hospitals, medical cities and university hospitals offer a lot of benefits including high salary, social insurance and considerable experience.
The only downside is the long work hours.
“I am against letting Saudi female pharmacists work in the neighborhood pharmacies. Robberies are common in such pharmacies and this might endanger the life of female pharmacists. I think female pharmacists should work half a day for their own security,” she said.
A female pharmacist working for the National Guard Hospital said more government and military hospitals are offering job opportunities for female pharmacists, but with long work hours. In her opinion, the male pharmacists who work in a military hospital get higher salaries than their female counterparts, regardless of qualifications and experience. Female pharmacists who help in medicine preparation do not get any infection allowance.
She suggested that the Ministry of Labor should create job opportunities for female pharmacists in government schools.
Source Credit: Saudi Gazette