Urgent remedy sought for pediatrician shortage

Updated: 2016-02-19 09:36


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The stressful, and sometimes dangerous, working conditions, scant salaries and low social status endured by children's doctors in China has resulted in a lack of qualified practitioners. Cang Wei reports from Nanjing.

Urgent remedy sought for pediatrician shortage


Zhang Fan, a sophomore at a medical school in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province in East China, is considering which department to choose when he graduates.

"Many teachers and classmates have urged me not to choose obstetrics and gynecology because of the great pressure of work, but no one has suggested that I should not choose pediatrics or emergency treatment because they have already been ruled out of the list of options. Most medical students don't even consider them.

"I will probably choose ophthalmology or cardiology. In China, we say 'Ophthalmology is gold, the surgical department is silver, and pediatrics is rubbish'. Some of my classmates have pointed out that pediatricians only earn half the average salary of other specialist doctors," he said.

The shortage of pediatricians, highlighted by the closure of a number of children's hospitals in recent years, is now attracting attention nationwide.

According to the 2015 China Health Statistics Yearbook, the number of pediatricians has fallen from about 105,000 to 100,000 in the past five years, and on average, there are only 43 pediatricians for every 100,000 children.

Since December, pediatrics departments at a number of hospitals in Guangdong province have stopped accepting patients, or have ceased to provide services at night.

Meanwhile, pediatricians in some hospitals-such as the Lingnan branch of No 3 Hospital Affiliated with Sun Yat-sen University, the Guangzhou Integrative Medicine Hospital and the Second Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University-will only treat urgent cases.

Shan Yutao, director of the medical management department at the Lingnan branch of the No 3 hospital, said that since 2012, the number of pediatricians has been so low the hospital can barely meet the demand for services. Four of the eight pediatricians recruited by the hospital in 2011 have quit, and others are considering leaving soon.

"In 2012, the hospital treated 51,000 patients. In 2014, the number exceeded 63,000, and last year patient numbers rose by 12 percent. Every day, each pediatrician treats more than 100 children. Some pediatricians in the emergency department have to work 24-hour shifts, so it's understandable that some of them choose to leave," he said.

By 9 am every day, the pediatrics department at Xinhua Hospital in Shanghai has registered about 200 patients, who then wait to consult pediatricians.

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