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June 21, 2014

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Elitism blamed for shortage of anesthetists

HEALTH authorities in Shanghai are being urged to relax their selection criteria for anesthetists from outside the city in a bid to tackle a massive shortage of the specialist medics.

Based on current demand, there should be at least 6,000 anesthetists working in the city, yet the actual figure is nearer 2,000, industry experts said at the 3rd Oriental Congress of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine in Shanghai yesterday.

One of the main reasons for the shortage is that local health authorities refuse to recruit anesthetists from outside the city unless they have the rank of associate professor or higher.

This is a major obstacle to recruitment and is preventing well qualified and experienced people from working in the city, the doctors said.

“We want the authority to lower its standards, because we are in urgent need of skilled anesthetists,” said Dr Wang Xiangrui, director of anesthesiology at Renji Hospital.

“As people get wealthier, so demand is increasing for procedures that require a general anesthetic,” he said.

About 2 million such procedures were conducted in Shanghai last year.

Dr Yu Buwei, director of anesthesiology at Ruijin Hospital and a member of the anesthesiology branch of the Chinese Medical Association, said the number of the specialist medics in Shanghai is far lower than in many Western countries.

“In the United States, there are about 2.4 anesthetists for every 10,000 people. But in Shanghai, we have fewer than one per 10,000,” he said.

Also, it is international practice within hospitals to have 2.5 anesthetists for every surgery bed, which is three times the number in China, Yu said.

Another problem is attracting young doctors to specialize in anesthesiology, he said.

“Because of the current shortages, anesthetists are working under huge pressure,” Yu said.

“They regularly have to work 13-15 hour shifts and there are frequent reports of them quite literally working themselves to death,” he said.

Yu said he is also concerned about the current training process for young doctors.

Since 2010, medical graduates have been required to complete three years’ training in hospital on completion of their academic studies. During this period they are not regarded as fully qualified and do not specialize.

“There are only about 100 new anesthetists entering the profession every year, and the extended training requirement is not helping,” Yu said.


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