Published on ShanghaiDaily.com (http://www.shanghaidaily.com/)
China suffers short supply of kids' doctors
IN the waiting room of Beijing Children's Hospital full of crying children, Chang Xianliang leaned against a post with his eight-year-old son in his arms, as hundreds of other parents waited in line to register.
Chang, who came from Handan in Hebei Province, told Xinhua that he arrived at 6am but after queuing for two hours to see a neurologist, he was told the quota for the day had been filled.
There were many people like Chang who complained about the lack of medical staff. While parents complained about a lack of specialists to see their children, the huge number of patients was overwhelming for the doctors.
According to the website of the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau, on January 31 one doctor at Beijing Children's Hospital saw an average of more than 53 pediatric patient. Zhang Jian, deputy president of BCH, said the hospital was designed to handle 4,000 patients a day but it now receives more than 7,000 patients, on average. It even received 10,000 patients in a single day.
China has 230 million children, but in 2008 it had only around 61,700 pediatricians - 0.262 pediatrician for every 1,000 children. In the United States, the percentage is 1.45 for 1,000, said Zhu Zonghan, chairman of the China Pediatricians Association.
"Only 5,000 pediatricians have been added in China in the past 15 years, and that's frustrating," said Zhu, adding that there are only 68 children's hospitals across the country - 0.52 percent of the nation's 13,000 hospitals.
Zhu said China's cancellation of pediatrics as an undergraduate major in almost all medical colleges in 1999 discouraged students. After 1999, students who wanted to become pediatricians had to study pediatrics in training centers for a three years after graduating from a five-year medical college.
Problems in government planning has caused the shortage of pediatricians, according to Liu Guiying, director of pediatrics of Anzhen Hospital affiliated to the Capital Medical University in Beijing. "Pediatricians are sorely needed but the government strictly limits the quota of pediatrics staff in hospitals," said Liu, "Even if we need more pediatricians, we do not have any vacancies for them."
Liu said the difficulties faced by pediatricians in finding a hospital job discourages medical students from choosing to become a pediatrician. Moreover, Liu said that pediatricians' work is "low income but high risk."
"I have been in this profession for 27 years, but I earn much less than doctors in other medical departments," said Liu. "The risks we shoulder are much higher since almost all Chinese families have only one child, which makes parents demand too much when their kids get sick."
Compared with the frantic scene in BCH, few people visit the pediatric departments in non-pediatric hospitals.
Pediatric departments generate little profit for comprehensive hospitals where the government has allocated almost no money for pediatrics in recent years, Liu said.
This makes hospitals unwilling to buy expensive equipment for pediatric examinations. Many parents like Chang were aware of the failure of comprehensive hospitals to treating sick children and therefore turned to specialized hospitals.
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