Urgent remedy sought for pediatrician shortage

Updated: 2016-02-19 09:36


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Baby boom expected

According to the Health and Family Planning Commission of Shaanxi province, less than one-third of its pediatricians are university graduates, while a further one-third graduated from less-prestigious colleges.

All this is bad news for China, where on Jan 1 the government relaxed the national family planning policy that restricted most couples to one child.

The expected baby boom in the coming years will put extra pressure on child healthcare departments and the professionals working in them, making the search for a solution to the problem far more urgent.

According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 90 million Chinese women will be allowed to have a second child under the new policy.

Huang suggested that special policies should be applied to pediatric departments to ease the shortage of doctors.

"At present, patients pay 12, 22 or 35 yuan for each consultation, according to the doctor's experience," he said. "Why aren't pediatricians allowed to charge higher fees to treat patients? Compared with other specialist doctors, they have harder working environments and the risks are greater."

Huang also called for more government subsidies and higher salaries for pediatricians to prevent them from leaving their jobs.

Tang urged parents to be more understanding and to be aware of that children often may not be capable of accurately describing their symptoms, which can result in their treatment taking far longer than treatment for adults.

Wang believes the status of pediatricians must be upgraded to encourage students to choose the discipline. "Two years ago, an investigation by the National Association of Pediatricians showed that China lacked 200,000 pediatricians. But only 5,000 pediatricians can be trained and begin practicing in the coming five years," she said.

"First, the Ministry of Education should restore pediatrics to the list of undergraduate degree programs. Second, society as a whole needs to value the work of pediatricians and make them proud of the job they do. If that doesn't happen, the situation will continue to deteriorate."

Authorities prepare to deal with shortfall

Faced with a severe shortage of pediatricians and the expected baby boom after the relaxation of the national family planning policy, many areas and regions are taking steps to deal with the problem.

Under a program released by the Health and Family Planning Commission in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, the city's medical school will provide training based on demand to ease the pediatrician shortage.

Under the plan, before students are admitted to college, they will sign agreements with hospitals or health authorities that will provide partial funding for their studies. Upon graduation, they will be obliged to return to the hospitals to work. Alternatively, hospitals may send existing members of staff to train as pediatricians.

Provincial health authorities will establish pediatrics majors in colleges, such as Guangzhou Medical University, to train more doctors.

The authorities in Guangzhou will explore the provision of subsidies to pediatrics departments based on the number of beds, and establish a more rational evaluation system to ensure better wages to promote the speciality, the commission said.

The distribution of pediatric resources in Guangzhou will be overhauled, and authorities will encourage private companies to build children's hospitals.

In January, the government of Dalian, Liaoning province, released a guideline aimed at developing pediatricians as "urgently needed special talents". Under the guideline, pediatricians will enjoy favorable employment, remuneration and training policies.

The city aims to train 300 more pediatricians by 2019, and also employ a number of experienced pediatricians from home and abroad within three years, including 30 with doctorates.

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