No doctor shortage, says health panel

No doctor shortage, says health panel

NHCO points to worker management

Weerasak Putthasri of the National Health Commission Office says there are enough medical personnel for the country but not enough good management of the resources available. (Photo via nationalhealth.or.th)
Weerasak Putthasri of the National Health Commission Office says there are enough medical personnel for the country but not enough good management of the resources available. (Photo via nationalhealth.or.th)

Thailand no longer has a shortage of doctors and healthcare personnel and should not increase the production of these professionals over the next 10 years, a forum has been told.

The frequency of doctors and nurses per 1,000 population in Thailand is more than 2.28, which falls within the rate recommended by the World Health Organisation, said Weerasak Putthasri, deputy secretary-general of the National Health Commission Office (NHCO).

At a forum held by the NHCO, he said the problem rather lies in the country's management of human resources in the state-run healthcare sector, which is to blame for the fact that certain areas don't have sufficient healthcare workers while others have more than they need.

Thinnakorn Noree, a member of the sub-committee responsible for planning the country's healthcare workforce over the next decade, said a crucial question that needs to be answered first is how many doctor and nurses the country should have in the next 10 years.

He said the country's birth rate is not as high it was in the past and a large portion of the population will be ageing over the next decade.

The current rate of production of doctors and nurses is sufficient for the next 10 years and the country should not increase it, he said.

He said Thailand now produces about 3,000 doctors each year, a giant leap from the 800 doctors a year produced over the past 40 years.

At the current rate, the country will have 30,000 more doctors in 10 years, while the population growth rate declines.

However, Dr Thinnakorn said there are concerns regarding the production of pharmacists.

He said there will likely be a lack of professionals in that line of work in the next decade as many phamaceutical science students switch to other fields after their first year.

He added that more incentives should be introduced in this field of study.

It is a real challenge to answer how many healthcare personnel Thailand will need as it largely depends on what healthcare model the country will adopt for the future, he said.

If Thailand follows the US healthcare system, the country will focus on producing more medical specialists; but if the country aims to strengthen its primary healthcare system, a different course in healthcare personnel planning will be adopted, he said.

The country's population structure has changed dramatically with the size of the elderly population continuing to grow while the birth rate declines, Dr Thinnakorn said.

This points to the fact that the healthcare costs will be rising and it will be crucial for the government to pay more attention to the development of the primary healthcare system, he said.

"What we have to bear in mind is that the country's population growth rate is not as high as it used to be and the projection of the required number of healthcare workers should be calculated taking into account the declining birth rate," he said.

To ease the problem of large hospitals being crowded with patients visiting medical specialists, more teams led by a family physician should be sent out to work more actively in the community to provide basic health care, said Krisada Sawaengdee, a senior researcher focusing on healthcare policy who also serves as vice president of Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council.

She said they would at the same time be required to screen which patients should or should not go to those hospitals.

Dr Prasit Mangjitr, director of Kaeng Khoi Hospital in Saraburi's Kaeng Khoi distirct, said in his experience, about 30-40% of hospital visits by patients aren't really necessary, such as treatment of the common flu or diarrhoea.


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