Urgent remedy sought for pediatrician shortage

Updated: 2016-02-19 09:36


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Urgent remedy sought for pediatrician shortage

A doctor talks with a parent at the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing in January.[ZHU HUIQING/CHINA DAILY]

Departmental closures

Tang Jin, a doctor at Nanjing Chest Hospital, blamed the shortage of qualified pediatricians on "a slowness to react" by some governmental departments and the closure of pediatric departments in universities.

In 1998, the Ministry of Education closed all undergraduate pediatrics departments in the country's universities, and suggested free pediatrics training programs at postgraduate level.

"The decision greatly reduced the number of pediatrics graduates," Tang said. "I think the number of excellent doctors in China is falling. Universities used to admit top students, but now fewer top students apply for medical schools in the university entrance exam."

According to Wang, the pass threshold for the pediatrics exam is lower than that for general medicine, so pediatrics students can obtain a license more easily than other specialist doctors. Also, students who fail the general medical exam can opt to choose pediatrics as a career.

"The National Health and Family Planning Commission recently ruled that students who fail to pass the medical practitioners' exam can be given a second chance by taking the pediatrician license exam," she said.

"If their combined score for the two exams reaches the basic level for the medical practitioner's exam, they are qualified to practice as pediatricians. That implies that pediatricians receive the poorest medical training and are the least professional group among specialist doctors. Students applying to work in emergency departments are also given a second chance to obtain their licenses. Although pediatrics and emergency departments are short of doctors, this type of solution should not be used.

"Medical students who value material wealth will abandon pediatrics because of the poor salaries, but those who value spiritual satisfaction will do the same thing because of the shame associated with being a pediatrician."

Shao Wei, who works for Bank of China in Shanghai, said her mother, a retired pediatrician, is taking steps to deal with the shortfall: "My mother, a pediatrician with more than 40 years' experience, told me that she needs to exercise more frequently after hearing the news about pediatric shortages. She said she has to stay in good health to take care of my 4-year-old son and spare him from pediatricians who obtained their licenses by taking two exams."