Responding to a questionnaire sent by Muscat Daily on the issue, Salim R al Saidi, director of public relations, MoH, explained in detail the process that was adopted by the ministry in recruiting the nurses.
“Due to the increasing service needs for nurses with specialised expertise, an official team from MoH travelled to India to conduct examinations and interviews for nursing applicants. This mission took place from November 8-20, 2012.
“The recruiting team comprised specialised senior nurses from the various health care institutions in Oman as well as representatives from the administrative affairs at the MoH and Ministry of Civil Services. This team was responsible for the whole process and no other party was involved in the selection process.
“This mission was the first in its kind as a third party was involved. This third party was a local agency contracted by MoH to deal with logistical issues such as booking interview venues... The ministry would like to reassure that the local agency takes no additional recruitment arrangements with regard to selecting and other related issues and it has no reason to question its trust in its high order operations and since it never had any such claims.
“During the recruitment visit, 3,100 nurses appeared to the written examinations, of which 615 candidates were selected for the interview. Selected candidates were informed by the MoH delegates about the process of deployment.
“Upon the return of the delegates, the files of selected candidates underwent the routine appointment process as per the rules and procedures of the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries. Potential nurses have been informed by e-mail that they will be sent their visas and air tickets as soon as the vacancy is available, which means that these are all free of charges and it also means no other parties should apply any additional fees.
“The local agency here in Oman does not apply any fees on candidates; the ministry pays the local agency for its part in the process. This was reaffirmed by the ministry's delegation while conducting the interviews and other steps in the selection process. The ministry, to date, received no such claims from any of its prospective candidates.”
On November 7, Muscat Daily reported that it was in possession of a copy of a ‘call letter’ sent by Muscat-based agency Gulf Shield Enterprises, which had been contracted by MoH, to a nursing candidate in Kerala asking her to appear for a recruitment exam in Kochi on November 9.
“Please be informed that there will be a placement fee,” the letter stated. The letter mentioned the names of three third party Kerala-based placement agencies - Royal Rich Air Travel Services, Royal Star, and Regency Manpower Consultants and Tour Operator – with whom it has a 'legal tie up' who could be contacted for 'more information'.
The report also quoted prospective candidates who said that they were asked to pay a ‘fee’ of R500,000-R600,000 (RO3,570-RO4,285 approx) by the Indian agencies.
On January 29, Muscat Daily quoted a successful candidate as saying that she has been asked to pay R50,000 (RO358 approx) as an initial payment with the rest to be paid later. The report also quoted a senior ministry official saying that strict action would be taken against agencies if they were found to have charged any fee from the candidates, which is illegal.