Dr Mohammed K Tarin qualified as a medical professional in 1986, completing a MBBS in his home country of Pakistan. Since then, he has practised in a number of countries. The intricate and overwhelming situation of the medical sector during the Covid-19 pandemic prompted Dr Tarin to leave his most recent position in the UK as a consultant urologist at James Cook University Hospital Middleborough and relocate to Saudi Arabia, a place where he has worked twice before. He is currently employed at the King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital Jeddah where he works as a consultant urologist.
Q1: What do you feel are the main benefits to working as a medic in Saudi?
Mohammed K Tarin: For me, there are three main reasons. Number one is the workload which is not too bad here, especially compared to the UK. In the UK you have to meet a target, so you are always under pressure to meet these targets. Here there is no target, so you can take all the time needed for a patient and the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. Monetary-wise it’s also beneficial and for me personally, my home country Pakistan is close, so I can keep in closer touch with my extended family.
The hospitals are generally very well-equipped, and although they are not leading in technology in an international comparison right now, the hospital I currently work at is in the process of acquiring modern, up-to-date equipment now. Additionally, we doctors receive free accommodation, there are free meals when you are on call, and there’s free transport. So it is quite a relaxed atmosphere and life.
Q2: How did you find the recruitment process Saudi Arabia?
Mohammed K Tarin: The recruitment process with Odyssey Recruitment was a good one, a relatively easy one. However, there is something I wish people were more aware of in more detail. I was registered as a consultant with the Saudi Health Council when I previously worked in Saudi Arabia. The recruiters and even the staff at King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital, where I work now, assured me again and again that it was just a matter of applying for renewal of my registration and that there would be no objection from the Council to renew my registration. But in fact, it was not like that.
To my disappointment, the Saudi Health Council wanted to re-evaluate me. So I had to go through all the standard registration procedures again to reclassify as a doctor. I had to get my documents, although most of my documents were verified via Dataflow, but few documents had to be done again. And then there was a long wait, a long process – they were asking for this document, that document and eventually, they said okay, we will now re-evaluate you by use of an OSCE exam [an examination where a medic practises and demonstrates clinical skills in different standardised medical scenarios]. I feel a little disappointed that even though I had all the necessary qualifications, I still had to go through that stressful process again.
I still don’t know the result, so I am still not registered with the Saudi Health Council and I still don’t know if I’ll be able to continue practising here because the hospital are saying that if I am not granted registration, they will not renew my contract. It has now been six months of waiting. And it’s not just me, there’s a few other doctors in the hospital who don’t know their fate and the performance is going to be impacted when working under these stressful and uncertain conditions. Please don’t relocate to Saudi Arabia as a doctor until registration with the Health Council is definitely confirmed.
Q: How are you finding life in Saudi? Would you recommend it?
Mohammed K Tarin: I had a pretty good knowledge of the Saudi society and culture before moving, so there weren’t any surprises when I arrived. Everyday life is fine for me and my wife because we are Muslims and can therefore adapt and integrate into Saudi society very well. We are comfortable here. It does not exactly feel like home, because it is still overseas for us. So not exactly home, but because of the Muslim culture and the society in general we feel a little more happy here.
I will say though, it depends on the individual person as well. I am not sure about people who are non-Muslims, whether they would enjoy living in this society. The Muslims generally feel quite comfortable and relaxed in Saudi, but I am not sure about the non-Muslims. But I see a lot of Filiponos among the paramedics and the nursing staff; they are not Muslims, but they are happy here. It is probably because they too receive the free accommodation, the free meals while being on call and the free transport, so medics generally benefit from this relaxed living situation.
Q: How do you see the medical sector in Saudi developing, especially from an expat point of view?
Mohammed K Tarin: There is a drive for Saudization; Saudi medics are actually preferred employees. But still, expats are always needed.
When I first came to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and then again in 2013, I definitely felt that Saudization. But as a matter of fact, expats are needed in Saudi. As long as you know your work, and as long as you are confident, you will be recruited to practise in Saudi Arabia and you will fit very well into the working environment and lifestyle here.