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IS THE DOCTOR IN? There are only 7 physicians per 10,000 Pinoys, says DOH

Reuters file photo.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - There is only one doctor per 1,429 citizens in the Philippines. Thus, the shortage of physicians remains a big problem in the country's health care system, according to the Department of Health (DOH). 

At a health forum in Manila on Tuesday, DOH Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa said the country needed 30,000 more doctors to achieve the ideal doctor-to-patient ratio of 1 is to 1,000. 

Currently, there are only 72,000 licensed doctors, based on data from the Professional Regulation Commission, which makes the ratio of seven doctors per 10,000 patients or one physician to 1,429 people. 

Herbosa said the shortage is more pronounced in remote places where only one doctor is available to serve 33,000 people. 

"The Philippines is now suffering a tremendous lack of health workers. Doctors are the drivers of the health care system and if we have a shortage of doctors, the system will fail," said the DOH official.  

Aggravating the country's health care problem is the recruitment of Filipino doctors abroad where they are offered higher pay. 

"Physicians...are a limited resource in any country...We have become a solution to many of the countries who have this similar problems. Hina-hire nila ang ating [They hire our] doctors and nurses to take care of their patients...they give them higher pay," said Herbosa.  

He said the the government is addressing the brain drain by giving doctors incentives through the Magna Carta for Health Workers. 

But this isn't enough especially when the country's population continues to rise. 

"We have the population growth that has aggravated the situation. Other countries have kept their population at bay, ours have ballooned to 100 millions," said Herbosa. 

What makes the problem worse is rapid urbanization that results in the "maldistribution" of doctors across the country," according to the DOH official. 

"Most of the country is urbanizing and most of the physicians want to stay in urbanized areas," he said.

Complicating the situation is the DOH's incapability to hire doctors. "It is the local government units (LGU) that should hire (and the funds for hiring doctors) should be taken out of their internal revenue allotment (IRA)," said Herbosa. 

He said LGUs are mandated to spend 30 to 35 percent of their IRA for public health care.