In a bid to secure jobs in Saudi Arabia, some Asian nurses have allegedly presented counterfeit certificates to prove work experience. Some of these women, mostly from India and the Philippines, have ended up in prison after arriving in the Kingdom or are barred from leaving the country pending investigations.
The forgery was uncovered by a team of experts from the Ministry of Health during screening of nurses recruited through leading manpower consultants in Manila and New Delhi to work in primary health centers in various parts of the Kingdom. Some of them were employed in the private sector.
The recruits had acquired sufficient qualifications and possessed genuine academic qualifications. However, they furnished fabricated experience certificates with longer than actual work duration to boost hiring prospects with the collusion of recruitment agents.
It also came to light that in some cases the agents had submitted forged experience certificates on behalf of the nurses without their knowledge.
A few fraudulent agents have tainted the reputation of hard-working and well-qualified nurses from these countries, officials said.
The nurses who were found guilty of forgery have been lodged in various prisons in Makkah, Riyadh, Eastern Province, Qassim and other regions.
At least a dozen nurses from the Philippines have been arrested in Jeddah and other cities of the Makkah province while 30 others face probe in Riyadh and the Eastern Province.
Also, a significant number of nurses from India are facing a similar fate for falsification of certificates, according to sources.
The Public Prosecution is handling the cases in coordination with the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCHS) and under the supervision of the provincial emirates.
One of three Indian nurses who were arrested in Taif was found innocent by the court, which ordered the Ministry of Health to reinstate her. However, the ministry terminated her services and repatriated her. Another is out on bail while the third is still behind the bars. The Indian Consulate is working to secure her release, said the sources.
In an earlier case in Qassim, a nurse was able to prove that she was not aware of the false certificate the agent in India had submitted on her behalf. However, she was slapped with a fine and deported following an unsuccessful appeal.
Some of the nurses had obtained bank loans to complete their education and placement, and are now unable to repay the loans after losing their much-coveted jobs in the Kingdom.
A few of the nurses who had allegedly submitted fake certificates left the Kingdom prior to the beginning of the probe to avoid legal consequences.
In addition to the newly recruited nurses, some nurses who have served in the Kingdom for a long time with proven track records are also facing problems after the authorities made it mandatory on them to produce their certificates for the renewal of licenses. These nurses say some of the institutions they graduated from or worked at were either closed or relocated, making the verification of their credentials difficult.
A nurse with more than 10 years experience in a private clinic in Yanbu was arrested on charges of certificate forgery. Another nurse was arrested in Badr while two others in Dammam are languishing in jail on similar charges.
The SCHS has made it mandatory for all health professionals in both private and public sector to produce academic and experience certificates prior to the issuance or renewal of licenses to practice the profession in the Kingdom.
An international agency carries out the verification of certificates in India, the Philippines, Egypt and other countries.
An official from the SCHS has told Saudi Gazette that certificate forgery is not a major problem for the commission to deal with in recent years.
The Ministry of Health is according priority to maintaining the highest standards in quality of services at its facilities, which are seeking international accreditation. The certificate verification of health professionals is one of the criteria for such accreditation.