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Improved conditions for medical staff urged to attract talent

By WANG QINGYUN and HU MEIDONG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-06-03

Working conditions for medical workers should be improved to persuade more students who perform well academically to apply for medical schools, a deputy to the National People's Congress from Fujian province said.

The level of income and the occupational risks are among the factors that tarnish the appeal of studying medicine, said Weng Guoxing, former president of the Fujian Academy of Medical Sciences.

In his suggestion submitted to the third session of the 13th NPC, Weng cited a survey he conducted in February, among other statistics, to make his case.

About 31 percent of more than 2,100 senior high school students in the provincial capital of Fuzhou who took the survey said they are willing to study at medical schools.

Yet that idea was shared by only 13 percent of those "whose grades are among the top one-third of their class", Weng said.

For students who said 'no', the top three reasons are a lack of interest, the academic challenges of studying medicine and strained relations between medical workers and patients. Further, some students believed that medical workers' income is incommensurate with their workload.

As a cardiovascular surgery expert who has been supervising graduate students for more than two decades, Weng said he has felt the brain drain.

Weng told China Daily that he began to see a decline at least five years ago in the number of graduate students whose first choice was his department, which features a heavy workload and risks brought by relatively higher rates of surgical complications and deaths.

In general, occupational risks for medical workers include potential infection of serious contagious diseases, such as COVID-19, as well as possible violence against them by hostile people, Weng said in the suggestion.

Cautioning against unreasonably high expectations for medical workers, he called for stronger punishment on patients who commit violence to better protect workplace safety, "which is the most basic step to attract talent into the health system".

He also suggested improving income for medical workers, many of whom tend to work excessive hours.

A survey by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association issued in 2018 showed that doctors in Level 2 and 3 hospitals worked about 51 hours per week on average, and those in Level 1 hospitals-usually smaller and at grassroots level-worked about 48 hours. Fewer than one-fourth of the doctors surveyed said they enjoyed full annual leaves prescribed by law, the association said in a statement.

According to a report made to the NPC Standing Committee in April last year, more policies have yet to be adopted to fully guarantee doctors' rights, such as taking leave as well as their occupational safety and income.

This "has affected the appeal of the occupation and doctors' enthusiasm at work", Ma Xiaowei, minister of the National Health Commission, said in the report.

Wang Chen, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, suggested the country strengthen medical education, among other measures, to improve its public health system.

Making the remark in a video news conference in May, Wang, also president of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said there should be a system that attracts talented people to practice medicine. It's important to provide medical students with both bright career prospects and strict training, he said.

Weng, the NPC deputy, said hospitals and high schools can cooperate on programs where students visit hospitals and see for themselves how doctors work, so they may have a better understanding of and greater interest in the career. In addition, he suggested the country increase the number of medical scholarships.

Contact the writers at wangqingyun@chinadaily.com.cn

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