Too many doctors by 2009: Minister
The government will give appointments in the state service to about 800 newly passed out medical graduates on Tuesday, but the Health Minister warned last night that this practice of automatic recruitment of doctors would come to an end in 2009.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told The Sunday Times the current deficit of 1,800 MBBS-qualified doctors and 600 specialists in the state service would easily be filled within two years, despite a yearly drain of 200 to 300 doctors to other countries.
He said that at present 800 to 1000 MBBS graduates pass out of Sri Lankan medical colleges and a further 200 or so return to the country from foreign medical colleges. There are also about 1,500 undergoing training to be consultants, along with 175 who have gone abroad for post-graduate qualifications.
In two years, the Health Minister said the state health service would reach saturation point as far as doctor requirement was concerned. Already the Government has increased the health budget to Rs. 64 billion this year from Rs. 44 billion last year, making it the third biggest expenditure behind Defense and Education. So there has to be a cap at a future point.
The Health Minister regretted that at least 67 medical personnel sent abroad for specializing in psychiatry, a field much in demand, had failed to return. Therefore, the Ministry will appoint 100 MBBS qualified doctors as Psychiatry Medical Officers after training.
“With the entry of more medical graduates and specialists to the state service in the next two years there will be a marked improvement of services at the periphery. Many base hospitals which have only one specialist in each field at present will get an additional one each so that when a specialist goes on leave the service does not come to an abrupt halt as at present. Similarly each specialist will have as much as 12 MBBS graduates serving under him,” he said.
Sources said envisaged reforms included suspension of private practice for state sector doctors in the next decade.