Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Commentary: We don't need more doctors (CNN Special)

I refer you to an interesting commentary in CNN by Clayton Christensen, Jason Hwang and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, about the need (or not) for more doctors.

They make good points. Essentially we need to rethink how health care needs to be provided. They are right in that most health care is provided at the primary level, which do not really require doctors (why else is the chinese sinseh market florishing? :) ).

They sa, "There IS a shortage of health care services being provided, but many of them are not best offered by a doctor. "

In Singapore, the problem is compounded by the way we train our doctors. Correctly we should be training our doctors to meet the needs of the public most of whose problems are best solved at the primary level. In the present rush towards academic excellence, the medical schools position themselves more as a research insititutes than practitioner schools. Medical students' expectations are inflated to think of themselves as cutting edge clinical researchers etc. Most are pushed into expecting lucrative careers as medical specialists. Is there any wonder that there is a 'shortage of doctors'?

In fact this 'shortage' is only relative. There is a surfeit of specialists in Singapore, whose eyes are focused on the revenue that foreign patients bring. Consequently few want to do the kind of job that they have taught to look down upon. Sad isn't it? No one wants to be the humble GP anymore.

I have posted on the need for another medical school before. Do we need one more? Yeah. No doubt about it. But we need one that can be clear about its mission to train doctors to be good compassionate practitioners of their craft. Physicians who do not think that providing basic care is beneath them.

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