Pediatrician Wang Tianbo is surrounded by young patients and their relatives in Ningbo Women and Children's Hospital in Zhejiang province last month. ZHANG PEIJIAN/FOR CHINA DAILY
Number of professionals rises but still in short supply; more training called for
Nearly 35,000 pediatricians have been added to hospitals and clinics across China in the past three years to better meet demand for healthcare services for children, a leading health authority said on Wednesday.
This helped the number of pediatricians in China grow to 154,000 by the end of last year, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The increase in the number of pediatricians is part of the achievements made by health authorities since 2015 when the commission started to carry out a new action plan to improve healthcare services, the commission said in a statement.
Local health authorities have taken measures including supporting education of medical students in pediatrics and improving training of pediatricians to ease shortages, the statement said.
A report released by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association in 2016 said that 86,000 more pediatricians are needed in China in order for demand to be largely met.
Zhu Chunmei, a pediatrician at the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing, said multiple factors are behind the shortage of pediatricians in China's hospitals over the years, including inadequate supply of talent and the fact that many comprehensive hospitals fail to place equal importance on pediatrics as it brings in less revenue.
"More measures should be adopted to address the shortage of pediatricians, including intensifying training of pediatricians, raising their pay and providing more support to the development of grassroots medical institutions so patients will not just swarm to large hospitals," she said.
The shortage of pediatricians has become prominent this winter as the worst flu outbreaks in the past few years hit many parts of China, with pediatrics departments at many big hospitals crowded with children and their parents.
"It was very difficult to register to see a doctor," said a mother in Beijing, who only gave her surname Zhang. "All the pediatrics departments in big public hospitals are full. I had to pay several times as much to see a doctor at a high-end private hospital for my five-year-old son who got the flu."
In addition to increasing the number of pediatricians, health authorities have taken many other measures including utilizing information technology in healthcare to improve healthcare services, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
More than 2,700 hospitals and clinics in China have opened services so patients can pay medical fees through mobile phones, three times as many as three years ago, Jiao Yahui, deputy chief for medical administration and supervision at the commission, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Remote medical care service websites have been built in 22 provincial regions in China, covering 13,000 medical institutions, which provided more than 60 million such services last year, she said.