Monday, 13 January 2014

China's paediatrician shortage reaches crisis point

by Michael Woodhead
An article in Dalian's local paper the Peninsula Morning News has highlighted the real world impact of China's chronic shortage of paediatricians.
The paper notes that local children's hospitals have been unable to recruit paediatricians for some time, and currently had no replies to the latest 'situations vacant' ad for child doctors. In addition, many existing staff have resigned.
The "Bandao Chenbao" says the paediatric workforce problem is due to the familiar reasons of low pay, low status, high stress, long and inconvenient working hours  and danger of being assaulted by the public.
With starting salaries of little more than 4000 yuan a month, few are attracted to paediatrics when a similar income can be made from working as a 'baomu' (childminder) in Guangzhou. Insiders ask why would anyone go through 5 years of medical school then another three years of a masters degree and internship to do a job that pays so little and requires so much input in terms of paperwork and bureaucracy? In addition to the long period of study, paediatricians have a heavy burden of exams and also a huge amount of medical file paperwork to keep up with. And dealing with children, they are often the target of assaults and abuse from parents and family members when things don't go according to their expectations. Those who know the job say that it requires a lot of night shift work and working long unsociable hours.
The root cause of the problem is under-investment in the medical system and the low fees charged to patients. This means that there are few resources to support doctors and thus doctors must deal with a high number of patients each day. Inevitably with such as high throughput and scant resources, mistakes occur, and it is the doctor on the front line who gets the blame. It is a vicious circle as more doctors leave, so the remainder face even greater pressures.
The article says the situation is not confined to Dalian, but is a national problem that needs to be addressed by training more doctors but more importantly by putting more resources into the system to support doctors and reduce the number of patients seen per day.

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