‘Matching system’ to correct doctor shortage

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To address the shortage of physicians in the country, doctors said the government should adopt a matching system policy to advise graduates of medicine in both private and public schools nationwide which field of specialization to pursue and where to be assigned.

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Dr. Adrian Rabe, assistant professor at the University of the Philippines-Manila (UPM), said he sees no problem in “putting the careers of doctors in the hands of the government.”
He even cited as examples the matching systems implemented by the governments of the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).

In the US, Rabe explained that the government tells medicine graduates to pursue certain specialties which are lacking in the country while those in the UK undergo ‘junior doctor training’ where they are paid like practicing doctors after working for a certain period of time.

However, no such policy exists in the Philippines and concern ed government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) have not been tapped for this purpose.

“If the government is serious about solving the problem, they have to tap all medical graduates, including those from private schools,” Rabe said.

He added that the problem with studying medicine here is that most schools are run by private institutions where the return of service agreements (RSAs) can’t be made unlike in state schools.

This year, Rabe said about 120 of 160 medical graduates of UPM would enter into RSAs where they are expected to serve in any institution in the country for two years upon graduation or pay about P2 million for non-compliance.

He also emphasized the need to draft a law on medical education to be followed by both public and private schools

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Leachon, vice president of the Philippine College of Physicians, told The Manila Times that such a policy would help local doctors serve patients, especially in far-flung areas.

He attributed the shortage of doctors to the migration of healthcare professionals to other professions; the urban migration or the transfer of most doctors to urban areas where technology and money are present; and ‘brain drain’ or the export of doctors to other countries for further training or experience and better pay.

But Leachon added the policy would work only if the government is serious in improving the country’s medical infrastructure and provide better incentives to public doctors.

These improvements would encourage more doctors to stay and serve in the Philippines, in rural areas and in primary healthcare instead of “superspecializing”, he explained.

He stressed that the government already has funds to give higher salaries to public doctors that will be provided by the recently enacted Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012.

He shared a strategy on how government could effectively deploy local doctors represented by six Rs: recruiting, retraining, retaining, regulating, reassessing, and redistributing.

For his part, Dr. Romeo Divinagracia, president of the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UE-RMMMC), said he liked the proposed matching system policy.

He said that a research project in UE-RMMMC to determine the country’s health manpower needs is now underway.

He even gave suggestions no how concerned government agencies should formulate this policy: (1) they should study how many doctors are needed per specialty (cardiology, gastroenterology, etc.) in the country; (2) they should make sure incentives for them are reasonable enough; (3) doctors assigned to the provinces should have access to medical technology; and (4) access to primary healthcare must be improved.

But Divinagracia doesn’t believe that there is a shortage of doctors in the country.

“There is resurgence in the interest of students in medicine,” he explained, referring to the previous low demand of nurses abroad. “In the next few years, we expect this trend to continue.”

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