16 August 2004

"Critical" Physician Shortage By 2010

In today's issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan writes in her column that there will be a "critical shortage of Filipino physicians by the year 2010." She gathered this while interviewing Dr. Josefina Almonte, chair of the Department of Surgery of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) during her Sunday radio night program. Excerpts are as follows:
  • "The Philippine medical profession here is in serious peril of losing its doctors, as many of them go to the United States to work as nurses because of the easy recruitment and the much bigger pay abroad
  • ."

  • "Senior medical residents here earn about P7,000 to P8,000 a month, whereas in the United States, as nurses, they can easily earn $26 an hour." Converted that's approximately P1,456 per hour or P11,648 per 8-hour nursing duty period. A Filipino doctor-turned-nurse in the US easily earns close to P300,000 a month. Geeez, you can already buy a decent second hand car with that amount. No wonder they are flying like birds to the US.

  • "Almonte said that enrollment in medical schools here has dropped in recent years because of this situation, and in fact, a recent Department of Health study showed that if the exodus of our physicians is not arrested, the country will be experiencing a critical shortage of about 18,000 doctors by 2010."

  • "Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Lerias' alarm over the fact that 13 of the 15 doctors in her province's Integrated Hospital Office are taking up nursing courses on the side, preparatory to leaving for the United States."

  • Chief of hospitals Dr. Leonardo Eway admitted, too, that three district hospitals in the province (Leyte) need about 15 doctors, 'but sad to admit, there are no takers'."

  • "Governor Lerias was quoted as saying she would appeal to the doctors to value service to the people more than the potential of earning more money in the US."
[Critical shortage of doctors by 2010 - INQ7.net ]

Can you imagine a world with a critical shortage of doctors? I can. Can you imagine the possible scenarios? Forgive my pessimism but here's what I think:
  • Massive infirmities and deaths in the rural areas.

  • Strong possibility of epidemic outbreaks with no one competent enough to control them.

  • Crowding of hospitals here in the metropolis because there are no more health professionals in the rural areas. Patients will come here in droves!
Is it all about money? Is that the reason why these doctors leave to become nurses abroad?


Can we or the government appeal to them to "value service to the people more than the potential of earning more money?"

IN YOUR DREAMS. Hah! You can appeal all you can but they can't be stopped. Not unless the government will start caring for them and for what they do.

Can't they sacrifice?

HAVEN'T THEY SACRIFICED ENOUGH? They did. They gave the government a chance to deliver the promises they made. Apparently, doctor and nurse salaries are still better somewhere else not here. Meanwhile, prices of goods, tuition fees, and fuel continue to rocket upwards.

There is an old Chinese proverb that I often use as my guide in healing. It says:
"An excellent doctor heals an ailment by preventing factors leading to the disease, while a mediocre doctor (almost always) heals the full-blown disease."
If the government was a doctor in this case, what kind of doctor do you think it is?

Excellent or mediocre?

Only time will tell.

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