According to a 15 October article which appeared in Arab News, one Saudi woman’s suggestion is gathering steam – construction and implementation of women only hospitals. Those who are in favor of a women only hospital which would include an entire hospital whose complete staff is of women only site multiple reasons why such a facility is favorable.
At present many Saudi families look upon the medical profession for women, whether as a doctor, nurse, technician or administrative staff as an inappropriate place for women to work. The medical sector is one of the few places of employment where unrelated men and women either have or have the inability to be in contact with one another. As a result, many Saudi husbands, fathers and brothers are very wary of having their female relative exposed to such an environment, regardless of her background, professional qualifications or the need of gainful employment.
Conservative Saudi families also do not wish to have their female family member risked of being exposed to unrelated males even in the capacity as a patient.
The Saudis who share these views believe that women only hospitals are an excellent option whether as a potential place of employment or where their female relative can receive medical care without fear of exposure.
A women only hospital as proposed would be completely staffed by females which in turn would create a multitude of job openings and opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia. Today’s Saudi society is requiring more females to go out and join the workforce in order for young couples and families to make ends meet. Others see women only hospitals as excellent places of employment for Saudi divorcees and widows.
These reasons may sound solid and good yet are they practical reasons? Wouldn’t female only hospitals be a step backwards for Saudi Arabia rather than a step forward? At present most hospitals already have female only sections. For example, National Guard Health Affairs has female wings and male wings which house patients. Female wings are staffed and serviced by female nurses and male wings are staffed and serviced by male nurses. National Guard Health Affairs has separate waiting areas for men and women. There are separate pharmacies too in accordance to honoring segregation. However medical staff, support staff and administrative staff may be mixed depending on capabilities and needs.
One aspect not addressed in the feasibility of a women only hospital are visitation rights. Would male family members be able to come in and visit their female relative inside of a women only hospital? Wouldn’t that in turn defeat the purpose of women only? Can you imagine a Saudi son calmly agreeing to stay away from a hospital while his mother undergoes open heart surgery or some other critical procedure? I don’t think so. I don’t know if I would also want to limit my choices of who will take care of me based on their sex. I would want care to be based on who is the best known in the field for which I needed medical attention.
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