Kuwait MD: Dr. Can you please give me an injection?

Post by Dr. H

maid

I’m a 20 something year old doctor working in family medicine in a polyclinic in Kuwait City. I’m Kuwaiti but I was born and raised abroad, and then finished med school abroad. When I graduated I decided to come back to Kuwait. There’s a lot of ups and downs of being back, it’s been a joy and struggle at the same time. So i’ll be writing about some of that, as well as healthcare, and life as a Doctor working in Kuwait. For my first post, I’ll be discussing an issue I face on an almost daily basis in practice, one that I almost always feel helpless in solving. The treatment of foreign workers in Kuwait.

Patient: Dr. Can you please give me an injection?

Me: Which injection?

Patient: Something that will make my flu go away, that will make me able to work again

Me: I explain that flu’s take time, and that she needs to rest, and that its vital she does so.

I see hesitation.. followed by

Patient: Please, give me anything madame says I have to work

This is sadly a very common scenario. Typically it would be a housemaid, who’s come to seek treatment for a flu or common illness, and is worried that she’ll get in trouble, get deductions from her salary, or even worse, get hit if she doesn’t work through her illness. This is a trend I noticed very early on while working in family medicine.

I thought for a while about what the solution could be, so I started asking for the numbers of their employers, and started explaining to them; the need for rest, how ‘contagious’ a flu can be, and how vital rest is to ‘speed up recovery’ time. Coming from a ‘fellow Kuwaiti’ it wasn’t hard to convince… and trying to appeal to their own selfish nature by implying that they’ll get something out of letting them rest also helped. As if showing a little bit of empathy and basic humanity isn’t enough motivation to do so.

This just highlights a major issue in this country that largely goes un-noticed. Or perhaps its noticed, yet nothing is done. While I was working on a OB/GYN residency, a housemaid came into the emergency room in tears, claiming that she just found out she was pregnant and that she’d been raped earlier. I was horrified, and I contacted the police. Instead of them taking a statement from her, doing their best to protect her.. they dragged her down to station for ‘questioning’ and detained her! “illegal pregnancy” they said.

There are not enough laws to protect foreign workers. We have people from all over the world coming to work in Kuwait whether it be in homes, streets, hotels, restaurants. Immigrants make up a huge percentage of the population of Kuwait.. a percentage that Kuwait wouldn’t be able to run without.

What support systems are in place should they need help? Who can they approach? Is there a helpline they can call? Is there a ‘union’ that defends them? Are there organizations in place?

These issues need to be addressed, if not for the country’s sake, for the sake of maintaining a little bit of humanity, and not losing track of the reality that we live in.

Post by Dr. H – A family medicine resident working in a polyclinic in Kuwait


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58 comments, add your own...


  1. khaled says:

    Patient: Dr. Can you please give me an injection?

    Me: Which injection?

    Patient: Something that will make my flu go away, that will make me able to work again

    INSTANTLY knew that it probably wasn’t a Kuwaiti govt worker..

    • THAT’S what you took away from this horrifying story?

      • khaled says:

        Well.. this story is very mediocre compared to others.. not saying its acceptable in any way, however people in the gulf region, not all mind you, have done far worse, in addition its like they forget their own humanity, they forget that this is a human being because it makes it easier to not have them go out on vacations, or give the, a break or to shout at them. If your horrified to this story then you are very new to this very dark issue in the world.

        In Muslim majority countries a form of salvery is blatantly accepted.

        now if you want to do something about it, 1 theres a petition being started to create a labor day, appreciation for all labors and focused on the expat labors from maids and drivers to cleaners and restauantees, that should aid to help awareness, in addition I am working on finding a way to create a govt sponsored center and initative to help these people, and force feed the Kuwaiti population that they have rights regardless of how much you paid for their visa. when it comes to fruition please come and help, and ill enlighten you on how dark this issue gets and why I can see this as just a run of the mill daily story.

  2. BlarneyBob says:

    It’s quite sad that Dr. H being a local gets her dose of culture shock.

    I worked in one of government hospitals there. We had Kuwaiti doctors who were trained abroad (just like her), struggle to change the system.

    They failed, miserably.

    Unless and until ALL of the ‘old school’ retires and the ‘fresh blood’ remembers their abandoned struggles, only then can you see the change.

  3. Mat says:

    Really happy to read a realistic blog that also from a Kuwaiti… Keep going Dr.H. May your good intentions reach up to the authorities.

  4. Mimi says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’m Kuwaiti myself, and the blatant mistreatment of domestic workers or foreigners in general has me extremely bothered and shook. I see it at the airport all the time. And I’m not surprised that the police would end up putting the blame on someone who had been raped. How do you go about preaching basic humanity though to so-called authority figures that make up this system? I would love to see organizations or some sort of change happen, but unfortunately, it feels like a losing battle.

  5. nasser says:

    i feel that the writer over exaggerated the problem, i’m not denying that some people abuse housemaids, but i feel that its one or two individual cases. just keep in mind most of them think they will get better treatment if they lie.

    i’m more interested in finding solution for the poor employer who paid money to bring here and his rights.

    • khaled says:

      not sure if your being a troll, the write could have said the story in 4 sentences and it would be just as sad and just dark.

      the poor employer who paid money.. “Money” it comes and goes, your life time and health don’t.

      also there is a cetain group of people who control this “Market” and hurting them or going public will get you in trouble.

      • nasser says:

        don’t be so dramatic
        there is a law and belive it or not its very strict and its totally biased.
        and for the ‘Money’ some of us work for living belive it or not.

      • MisterStretch says:

        The employer “paid money”…what, 60KD a month, the minimum wage?

        Does the employer allow time off, as per the law? Does the employer limit working hours, as per the law?

        The fact a Sri Lankan woman recently complained she hadn’t been paid her full salary for 11 years shows the mentality of “madame” for her imported slave.

        • nasser says:

          come on who doesn’t get paid for 11 years, there’s always another side of the story. keep in mind newspapers have the tendency to exaggerate.

          plus the minimum wage is 120 KD. the housemaid working for me, told me her husband owns a travel agency and she used to manage the office with him but working as maid earns her more that’s why she decided to come.

          all I’m saying mistreating house maids is there but not as common as the writer is presenting it.

          if Kuwait was not hospitable country we wouldn’t have so many foreigners working.

          • awf says:

            Hahah hospitable? Labours come here to earn a living with the false hope of getting well paid and have a good life but they are taken advantage of. They spend their entire life’s savings to get here and once they’re here they realize how bad it is, they can’t even go back because they have no savings and they are stuck here working as long as they can to have some savings and support their families back home. Kuwait needs to get its shit together and not treat expats like slaves.

            • nasser says:

              that’s not true :\

              first if they want to return home (by law) they get deported and the government bills the sponsor.

              i work with so many expats specially janitors and my friend did a documentary about street cleaners in Kuwait and used to think the same way as the majority here that they are poor and they are helpless what i found out even tough conditions isn’t perfect to our standards to them its better then back home. that’s why they choose to return.

          • joem says:

            Nasser it’s kind of strange to say something doesn’t exist – when by the very nature of things you are not in a position to be able to know if it exists or not. That’s like me going – no way x does not happen in Kuwaiti families, that’s bullshit!

            The cases of abuse are more than the average experience. THere is a reason that the Human Rights Watch came to Kuwait.

            I encourage you to take a trip to Al Razi hospital to see how many maids are lying in the wards having been beaten or raped by their employers, most of whom have no charges filed against them. Or better yet – take a trip to the deportation centre.

            THEN if you think it doesn’t happen often, at least you have a limited experience from which to make your claim. Otherwise you are just guessing

            • nasser says:

              you make it sound like a war zone any way i just retained copy of employment contract from the indian embassy in order to employ a driver, they have so many unfair terms for the employer if kuwaiti was working in india he wouldn’t get half the benefits mentioned.

  6. Who cares says:

    Here we go again. Another “clickbait” post. I’m not sure if you’ve realized this (I’m sure you know quite well actually), but the majority of your posts no longer constitute a “blog” post. Lately all you’ve been doing is cherrypicking your topics in order to generate traffic, and this is exactly one of them.

    Foreign workers being treated disgracefully? Tell us something we don’t know. Fact of the matter is, you rarely have something constructive or positive to say about Kuwait in general yet you insist on being a resident and you’ve been here what, a couple of decades? Either embrace this obvious oppression or simply bark up another tree because neither you or I control the strings behind the scenes. Your and your sidekicks ramblings are lost in translation. Stop beating a dead horse and focus on things that actually matter to you personally. After all, that is the purpose of a blog.

    Have you considered that sometimes foreign workers bite the hand that feeds? There are two sides of a coin. I’ve witnessed it myself. Being too kind leads to ignorance and deceit. Being too cruel leads to helplessness and intimidation. Finding the perfect medium isn’t exactly one day/night situation.

    You are entitled to post whatever you so please, but the barrage of negative critcism spiraling out of you is rarely justified. You criticize for the sake of criticizing.

    Kuwait will eventually change and acceptance of anyone will become the norm when oil starts dwindling into nonexistence, which may or may not happen in our lifetime. This illusion of freedom of speech and illusionary democracy should be treated as it is, a mere illusion.

  7. Kuwaiti-guy says:

    The different models of successful activism are countless, and the theories about the necessary stages are numerous, but one thing they all have in common is highlighting the importance of SPEAKING OUT. RAISING and SPREADING awareness, emotionally ENGAGING others in what is clearly an ongoing struggle in our society; these are vitals components of any budding successful movement.. and it starts with people like you, dr h. We need more educated, eloquent communicators of emotional rhetoric to keep this topic alive, in the hope that one day, when a drastic trigger (eg catastrophic torturing of a housemaid) occurs that jolts the issue to the media spotlight, an aggravated minority may speak out with such conviction and force that the majority thinks twice about not taking them seriously.

    Thank you for this post, i look forward to the rest!

  8. MisterStretch says:

    Dr H,

    Thanks for your post. I look forward to reading future ones, as well.

    As for the defenders of Kuwait who have their knickers in a twist because “here’s another bash Kuwait post”, grow up.

    Kuwait, while not as bad as other ME countries, still treats the lower level of its expat population worse than a Westerner would treat a stray animal.

    I’m sick of hearing people say that expats are the problem with Kuwait. If you don’t want expats here, clean your own damn streets and quit throwing your trash on the sidewalk, the beach, in the parking lot.

    Deliver your own 24-hour KFC. Pack my grocery bags and carry them out to the car.

    Kuwaitis have brought on this expat “problem”, not the other way around.

    I look forward to the day I put Kuwait in my rearview mirror.

    • meh says:

      That just might happen sooner than you think, there already will be a discussion in the parliament soon about the demographical structure (a fancy name for too much expats), which makes me think are decisions makers really that thick to not see what might this cause?

      In any case, the door is always open for you to leave.

    • nasser says:

      during the IRAQI invasion Kuwaitis did all the above.

      beside you don’t know how “westerner” treat other people. what you see in public places is nothing like what happens behind closed doors. historically speaking they used to have slavery until 1865, now 2017 and take a look at the news about workers abuse in what so called “westerner”

  9. meh says:

    A few months ago, a friend who is a dentist told me that an expat who worked as a maid came to him accompanied by her sponsor lady. The maid had a problem with the tooth that needed treatment. Long story short, the lady demanded from my friend to completely remove the tooth so she doesn’t have to come again.

    Kuwait being an authoritarian country, where 90% of the work force are in the government, we clearly have an authority complex.

  10. Dev says:

    Thank you Doc! Thank you for taking up the mantle of bring up this ever-prevalent and least spoken about matter. I hope your voice reaches those who are in a legal capacity to bring about changes from the angle of law and services.

  11. Sunny says:

    Serious question, are there any actual laws in Kuwait that dictate how many hr’s a day a domestic worker can work in a house hold?

    Any laws that state if they are intitled to time off in a given week?

    Are there any venues for the workers to safely voice their complaints?

    • lolguy says:

      Yes, there are. There are laws for everything.

      The question you want to be asking is are they followed/implemented/ enforced. And what happens if they aren’t.

      • meh says:

        Exactly, there is even a minimum wage that no body seems to follow. So what is the punishment for a sponsor that is not paying the wage stated in the contract? What is the punishment for companies that don’t pay at all for months?

    • nasser says:

      believe it or not the law is so protective that Kuwaitis don’t get the same privileges when we work any where.

      bottom line the worst thing can happen to her is not completing her contract and gets paid in full plus free ticket t go back to her country with full salary in her pocket.

  12. ABC says:

    While this post brings out some really obvious dark truths about the house workers, it also ignores the bright side as the Dr. is just talking about her personal experience and writing just about the dark side.
    you do 99 good things and no one will remember and do 1 wrong thing and the whole world would be at your face. that’s because being good is considered a norm.

    I know an Indian lady who is really old still living with her employers as the Kuwaiti children she took care of didn’t want her to go back to India and have a tough old age.
    She doesn’t work any more, she just chills with the Kuwaiti family. The Good.

    I also know a Sri Lankan man in his early 50s, who spent years working for a kuwaiti family. some winter nights he would spend at the chalet taking care of the place at the promise of being paid. He’s salary wasn’t the minimum of KD 120 that someone suggested. He used to get paid KD 70-90 per month.
    through out he had done these odd jobs at the promise of extra pay which he never received.
    last year this man had a heart stroke and had to go through a bypass surgery (May Allah bless Kuwait as this man never would have been able to afford the surgery or get the high standards of surgery in Sri Lanka). He was in the hospital for about 3 weeks to a month. went back to his employers house. he couldn’t work much as the wounds of surgery was still fresh.
    in a months time, his employers packed his bags and sent him back to his country without giving him any compensation, any money for his odd jobs or even a payout out of gratitude.

    • Blueelephantintheshroom says:

      “..That’s because being good is considered a norm.” You’re damn right it is. Duh. Decency is the norm in civilized societies; going out of the way to be kind and helpful is cause for praise.

  13. DeViL says:

    This was something new. Generally, I read about people lining up to get prescription for sick leave/bed rest to enjoy extended weekend holidays abroad.

  14. Fahad says:

    Interesting post indeed, but FYI most of kuwaitis treat their house assistants as part of their families.
    ومقيوله الطماطه الخايسه تخرب على السحاره

    Sincerely
    Fahad

  15. MousePotato says:

    God bless you Dr. H and Mark. Let us know if as an expatriate we can help out in anyway to make things better.

  16. Daryll says:

    I thought the post was about medical (intervention and stuff) but turns out an entertainment.. :-))


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