Coronavirus

Iran Risks A Nursing Exodus At The Worst Possible Moment

Qualified health care workers are urgently needed in the Islamic Republic. But because of the COVID-19 crisis, they're also exhausted — and eyeing opportunities abroad.

An Iranian medical personnel feeding a patient in a hospital in southern Tehran
An Iranian medical personnel feeding a patient in a hospital in southern Tehran

Exhausted after eight months of fighting coronavirus, and exasperated with all the empty promises, more than a few nurses and other health care professionals in Iran are looking to pack up and leave.

That's the word from the Tehran Nursing Organization, whose chief executive, Armin Zareian, announced that while nurses are needed in Iran like never before (Tehran hospitals reportedly need an additional 7,000 nurses), the COVID-19 crisis is also creating opportunities for them elsewhere, particularly in European countries, North America and Australia.

Some 20,000 nurses have so far caught the coronavirus.

Many of those countries have removed their language requirement for accepting migrant health workers, and there's a wave of Iranians eager to take advantage, Zare'ian explains. "From the time the coronavirus spread to European countries, the need for more specialists in European hospitals has created conditions for nurses going to these countries," he says.

Medical and especially nursing cadres were "worn down," Zareian adds. "Many nurses haven't seen their families for a long time. They are even canceling their weddings to be with people."

The nursing organization executive says that he raised the issue on several occasions with government officials and in meetings with parliamentary Healthcare Committee. He warned them repeatedly about the workload and state of exhaustion affecting nurses, and suggested that the situation could lead to "a calamity if ignored."

More than a few nurses and other health care professionals in Iran are looking to pack up and leave — Photo: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Zare'ian also says that some 20,000 nurses have so far caught the coronavirus and that plans to help them by hiring additional, temporary personnel haven't come to fruition. "They haven't even been employed yet," he says of the relief workers. "Nurses haven't any serious support."

The Health Ministry has promised several times that it would soon inject new nurses into hospitals, and pay nurses their back wages and benefits. So far, however, that hasn't happened, even though the money to do so has now been allocated, the Tehran Nursing Organization, citing sources in the state planning and budgeting body, argues.

"A quick calculation of the sums that the Plan and Budget Organization has given the Health Ministry shows that nurses should be paid everything they are owed," says Mohammad Mirzabeigi, another leading figure in the nursing group.

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