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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Qatar’s Sidra chief announces job cuts as part of new ‘rightsizing’ plan


Sidra complex
Sidra complex

Qatar’s much-delayed Sidra Medical and Research Center is set to cut more than 200 jobs by the end of this month as part of a new “rightsizing” process.

In a memo to staff yesterday, Sidra’s chief financial officer and acting chief executive Tim Carmack said that an unspecified number of employees have received “at risk” letters, forewarning them “of the redundancy of their position here at Sidra.”

Sidra is also telling many who are on fixed-term contracts that their contracts will not be renewed.

Sidra has not immediately responded to Doha News for a comment on the layoffs.

Sidra acting CEO Tim Carmack
Sidra acting CEO Tim Carmack

However, in his memo, Carmack said the job cuts come after senior Sidra officials composed a new five-year plan and budget for the project, which is years behind schedule and is at the center of an ongoing legal dispute with previous contractors.

Sidra was initially billed as an “ultra-modern academic medical center” dedicated to the care of women and children.

Funded by Qatar Foundation, the $7.9 billion project next to Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) was first planned to open in 2011.

It has missed numerous rescheduled opening dates since then. This summer, senior board member Lord Darzi told staff to expect more delays.

Though Sidra’s outpatient clinic may open in 2016, it could be another three years before it is able to conduct in-patient procedures, he said.

Redundancy letters

In his memo, Carmack said that the job cuts were part of a corporate restructuring in light of the on-going delays.

“Part of this (budget) exercise includes revisiting the structure and resources needed to open the OPC (out-patient clinic) and still progress with the hospital commissioning readiness.

We have had to make some difficult decisions about rightsizing the organization, and to that end, today we sent out ‘at risk’ letters, forewarning some of the redundancy of their position here at Sidra. Others on defined-term contracts have also received notification that their contracts will not be renewed.”

He does not say how many positions are affected or outline how many medical staff versus administrative employees would be laid off, but a source close to the matter told Doha News that 250 jobs are expected to be cut by the end of this month, with possibly more in the New Year.

Some of the affected staff only recently relocated to Qatar with their families, the source added.

Outpatient clinic lobby
Outpatient clinic lobby

In what would appear to be an incentive to encourage staff to leave soon, those who receive “at risk” letters are being offered a “separation package.”

Those who accept would leave their positions immediately and get help with closing their bank accounts in Qatar, canceling their visas and accommodation lease and shipping their goods back to their home country.

The memo also stated that laid-off staff would have the option to apply for “open positions” with Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) and other unspecified healthcare organizations in Qatar.

However, it does not mention the number or type of jobs that are currently available with HMC.

Formal redundancy notifications will be sent to staff “early next year,” and once the organization restructuring is complete, there may be other job vacancies available for which they can apply.

Sidra management is trying to provide affected employees with “as many options as we possibly can,” Carmack added.

“I acknowledge that all the back-and-forth and delays have been hard on many but things are slowly coming together now,” the Sidra acting-chief said.

Legal woes

When it finally opens, Sidra is expected to handle the delivery of 10,000 babies annually, offer specialized pediatrics, obstetrics and reproductive medicine services and contain nearly 400 patient beds.

Sidra Hospital
Sidra Hospital

Its opening is hoped to relieve some of the pressure at other hospitals, many of which are undergoing or scheduled for an expansion as Qatar’s lead health care provider HMC races to keep up with the country’s rapidly growing population.

Sidra’s lead construction contractors OHL International and Contrack International had been working on the project since 2008 and had planned to turn over the site to QF by March 2015.

However, QF sacked them from the job last year, without publicly explaining why, and replaced them with two new contractors – Midmac and Consolidated Contractors Group.

A notification of a lawsuit filed by OHL said QF claimed the project was late and the contractors missed deadlines.

OHL countered the project was 95 percent complete when its contract was terminated and that it had been just months away from handover.

Despite the lengthy delays, Sidra continued to hire hundreds of people and is still advertising for open positions in immunology, endocrinology and for pediatric sonographers, among others, on its online careers page.

Budget restraints

This is the second round of job cuts to be announced by Qatar organizations in the last two weeks, just a month after Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani warned in his speech to the Advisory (Shura) Council that the government “can no longer provide for everything.”

Sheikh Tamim at opening of the Advisory Council.
Sheikh Tamim at opening of the Advisory Council.

With global oil prices now less than half of what they were last summer, energy firms globally have been cutting staff and reprioritizing projects.

RasGas and Maersk Oil Qatar have all laid off staff in the last month, while Qatar Petroleum sacked thousands of employees last year and earlier this year.

The financial squeeze has also been felt elsewhere in QF, which cut the budgets of many Education City universities earlier this year.

As part of this, many part-time jobs held by students were phased out and universities also began enforcing timely payments of room rent for its residences.

Have you been affected by the redundancies? Thoughts?

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