Training scheme prompts doctors' plea for better pay

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 July, 2011, 12:00am


A mainland's doctors' association has called on the government to make a major increase in doctors' salaries before the introduction of a new national training system.

Lu Jun, general secretary of the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, which safeguards doctors' rights, also called on doctors to make their voices heard. Speaking at an endocrinology forum in Beijing last week, she said it was essential that doctors had pay rises now as they were suffering financially and would be affected further by the Standardised Training of Resident Doctors system soon to be introduced nationwide.

'All doctors should unite and tell the government how much money we deserve,' she said. 'We hope to persuade the authorities to pay us a salary that would give us a basic living, then we can devote ourselves fully to medicine.'

Junior doctors at public hospitals in major cities, like Shanghai, earn about 3,000 yuan (HK$3,600) a month in their first few years, while experienced doctors in their 40s are paid less than 10,000 yuan.

With poor financial support from the government, hospitals and doctors have turned to illicit practices to support themselves, including over-prescription of drugs and ordering unnecessary tests. This has left patients with soaring medical bills and fuelled tension between the public and the medical profession.

The Ministry of Health announced last month that the training scheme would be rolled out across the mainland soon, although it did not specify an exact date.

Under the new system, medical school graduates will have to spend three years undergoing intensive training in big hospitals.

After the residency period, they will be assessed and only qualified people will receive medical licences and be allowed to progress with their hospital careers.

Many medical students say the scheme will mean junior doctors are even worse off than now, as it will delay the start of their careers and consequently their earning power. Also, as residents, they would continue to receive low wages.

Lu said the residency system was essential, because of the deteriorating quality of medicine on the mainland. At present graduates from medical schools, even those with only a bachelor's degree, could be recruited by hospitals to practice as doctors, where they are subsequently required to gain one year's experience.

Those with master's or PhD degrees were eligible to apply for a professional doctor's licence, whether or not they had any clinical experience.

'There are some doctors, even holding titles of 'associate professor doctor', who don't know how to cure diseases,' Lu said.

She said the association, together with the health ministry, had drafted the training blueprint over seven years using standards identified by the World Federation for Medical Education.

The training system would set a universal standard for all regions to ensure all doctors had a suitable medical qualification. In future, hospitals would only recruit doctors who were licensed under this scheme.

Shanghai pioneered the scheme, introducing resident doctor training last year, and 39 Class-A hospitals in the city recruited 1,800 graduates.

However medical students are not happy with the scheme. An internet user at the medical website said: 'This arrangement will only end up with a huge loss of medical students. After the training we will be 30 years old. With just 3,000 yuan a month, how can I build and raise a family?'

Dr Feng Zhanchun, a public health professor from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei , said the scheme would cost students both time and money. 'Without significant rises in doctors' incomes, it's quite possible that fewer students will apply for medical schools,' Feng said.

Lu said the association had lobbied many times for higher wages and benefits, but the government said it did not have enough money.

'China is the second biggest economy in the world and our government is awash with cash,' she said.