NURSES are claiming that a Bahrain recruitment agency is demanding bribes to help them secure jobs at hospitals.
The company has been accused of demanding money under the table from nursing job applicants to ensure they will be included on the final shortlist.
The Manama firm, which cannot be named for legal reasons, has been hired for the last three years by the BDF Hospital, Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) and various private hospitals to recruit medical staff on their behalf.
But nurses allege they have been asked to hand over money to the company's chairman or his business partners in Mumbai, Kerala and Bangalore, in India.
If the applicant has a relative or friend in Bahrain who can arrange the money, they can allegedly hand over the cash to the chairman directly.
However, those who hand over the cash only make it onto a shortlist and are not even guaranteed a job in the end, applicants claimed.
Even if they are selected, they say there was no assurance of retaining their job.
Some of the nurses who gained employment in this way have reportedly had their contracts terminated after a year, because they were never suitable for the jobs in the first place.
When asked about the allegations, the company chairman initially told the GDN: "Nothing comes free in this world."
"If they have to gain something, then they have to pay for it," he said.
However, he later denied the accusation and called them "baseless allegations".
"I don't take bribes from anyone," he said.
"If the nurses pay money to agents in India (with whom he has a business partnership), I am not responsible for it.
"But I charge a month's salary after the applicant starts employment for the service."
An Indian nurse told the GDN that her friend's sister-in-law in India, who applied for a nurse's job at the BDF Hospital through the company, was asked by the chairman to pay BD500 to guarantee her name was among those shortlisted.
"She was not sure about what to do because she had never been to Bahrain," she said, requesting anonymity.
"So she contacted me through her sister-in-law because I work as a nurse here.
"I asked her not to give this amount because it was a bribe.
"If I hadn't stopped her, she was planning to ask a relative here to pay this amount after taking a loan.
"That's when I contacted nurses he's taken money from and probed the matter."
"I came across several nurses who are now working at the Salmaniya and BDF hospitals, hired through the company after paying a bribe.
"I also know of two nurses who lost their job at the BDF Hospital a year after getting appointed through the agency, as they were found ineligible."
Another Indian nurse who also spoke on condition of anonymity claimed she paid the agency BD500 to be added to a shortlist of candidates.
"I had no other option because I wanted the job desperately," she explained.
"Apart from the service charge of a month's salary, I was asked for the extra sum.
"The company chairman told me that paying this bribe was the only way to get the job.
"He also explained that he collected this amount from everybody recruited through his agency and that nothing can be achieved here (Bahrain) by going through proper channel.
"So if everybody is giving this money under the table and getting what they need, why should I be left out?
"He also justified his action by saying that since we will start earning once we get the job, he should also be getting a slice of the cake."
BDF Hospital director
Dr Bahaa Eldin Fateha told the GDN that the hospital had arrangements with various recruitment agencies to hire qualified staff based on rigid prerequisites.
"These agencies provide the hospital with the list of the qualified staff in preparation for interview by a selection committee," he said.
"They also conduct verification of qualifications and expertise.
"The accusations that these agencies are abusing staff by asking them to pay money to include them among the potential candidates may or may not be true. There is no way that the BDF Hospital or any other hospital in the region can
substantiate such accusations.
"The BDF Hospital cannot tolerate any violation of the rules of employment and definitely will not tolerate any abuse of its employees.
"Nurses who have any complaint in this regard can direct them to the Nursing Directorate at the hospital, which, I am sure, will take them very seriously. They can also direct such complaints in confidence to me."
A Health Ministry official told the GDN that the allegations had been forwarded to the ministry's Human Resources Directorate.