THE shortage of health professionals will take some time to resolve by expanding capacity in the education system and improving graduate quality, healthcare educators said.
West Visayas State University President Joselito F. Villaruz said in a media roundtable on Thursday that the Department of Health estimates the physician-to-population ratio in 2022 was only 3.6 for every 10,000 people, well below the ideal of 10 per 10,000.
“It will take us quite a number of years to fill in that gap,” he noted.
He said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is currently formulating its roadmap for healthcare education.
“This will include reorienting our curriculum towards primary healthcare and providing strategies to improve the quality of graduates by providing them with experiential learning,” he said.
CHED also recently approved a pilot program cutting short the time spent in medical school.
“They will also enhance the number of graduates, with doctors to be produced in less time,” Mr. Villaruz said.
“We cannot really tell at this time whether a shorter program will be applicable across all schools, but we are piloting this project but eventually, who knows, we might need to implement this across all schools,” he added.
Recruiting healthcare professionals should also start at a younger age to ensure that more students apply to medical programs, former Dean of the De La Salle Medical and Health Sciences Institute and the former President of Asian Hospital and Medical Center Madeleine Grace M. Sosa said.
“If we want to develop more nurses, we have to start with recruitment. The institution should be able to (tap) grades 11 and 12 (for) your future students,” she said.
“You need to have a way to hold on to middle schoolers, high schoolers, and grades 11 and 12. These (needed to be viewed as) feeder schools,” she added.
Reorienting the curriculum to give medical students earlier exposure to patients will also help motivate them to finish their studies, Ms. Sosa said, adding that more state universities in the provinces need to have medical schools.
Eleanor B. Almoro, who chairs the Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine, noted that as of October 2022, the Professional Regulation Commission had 152,055 registered physicians, with 99,561 classified as active.
“Divided by the Philippine population, it gives us a physician density of 9 doctors per 10,000 people,” she said, noting that the issue lies in their distribution across 17 regions.
The regions with the lowest healthcare professional density are the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Palawan, or Region 4B, at about two physicians per 10,000 people.
The National Capital Region still has the highest number of physicians at 29 per 10,000. — Aaron Michael C. Sy