PMA warns of worsening shortage of doctors

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 31 2014 02:48 AM | Updated as of Jan 31 2014 10:48 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Doctors are in short supply.

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said yesterday the shortage is expected to reach 930,000 when the country’s population reaches 100 million this year.

In an interview, PMA president Leo Olarte said the “internationally-suggested” ratio is one doctor per 100 population.

The Philippines must therefore have one million doctors, given the population of 100 million.

Olarte said the Philippines has only 70,000 “active” PMA members to serve some 100 million Filipinos.

“The growth in our population should be complemented by the increase in the number of doctors,” he said. “Our population is expected to rise so the problem on the shortage of doctors will surely worsen.”

The Commission on Population expects a population of 100 million by the third or last quarter of 2014.

Olarte said of some 130,000 licensed doctors, only 70,000 are still practicing.

“Over the past 10 years, there were around 10,000 doctors who shifted to nursing and then worked in other countries,” he said.

Olarte said the others have retired or emigrated.

“There is really a brain drain in the health sector,” he said.

Olarte said the devolution of health from the Department of Health (DOH) to local governments under the 1991 Local Government Code had worsened the situation.

“We support Health Secretary Enrique Ona in his call for a review of the Local Government Code,” he said.

“We believe that health should be reverted back to the supervision of the DOH because health is not a priority for many local leaders.”

Citing PMA studies, Olarte said public health facilities turned over to local governments have deteriorated because of lack of funds.

“We have been getting reports that the Magna Carta for Health Workers is not being implemented by the many local governments,” he said.