A report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows the number of doctors in Turkey has risen rapidly since 2000, but Turkey still lags behind in many public health indicators.
The report, "Health Workforce Policies in OECD Countries: Right Jobs, Right Skills, Right Places," suggests the rise in the number of doctors and nurses in Turkey "reached record levels in the OECD." However, the report urges Turkey and other countries to reform their training and employment strategies to better respond to changing health needs, and to reduce their reliance on foreign-trained health workers from developing countries.
The number of doctors in Turkey, a country of more than 78 million people, rose 133,775 in 2013, the latest year with available figures, according to the report released on Tuesday, while there were only 85,242 in 2000. The report also shows a slight rise in the number of foreign-trained doctors. Nevertheless, Turkey is still far behind the average number of doctors per 1,000 (3.3) in OECD countries, while the number is only 1.8 in Turkey.
Turkey acknowledges the shortage of doctors and points to past policies regarding the training of physicians. Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu said last month that Turkey needs 20,000 specialist physicians and 10,000 general practitioners. Müezzinoğlu linked the shortage of doctors to past restrictions on admissions to medical schools on the grounds of an excess of doctors. "There are only 17 doctors per 10,000 people in Turkey. It is the same for nurses," the minister said. He said medical school quotas increased in 2007, and it would take about 10 years to see a rise in the number of specialist physicians.
Last year, Turkey announced that foreign nationals whose diploma or specialization certificates are approved by the state-run Higher Education Council could work in public institutions. Currently, more than 500 foreign physicians work in Turkey, most often in the private sector.
The OECD report says a total of 3.6 million doctors and 10.8 million nurses were employed in OECD countries in 2013, up from 2.9 million doctors and 8.3 million nurses in 2000. The report says most of this growth was driven by increases in student admissions to medical schools, as well as a rise in the number of immigrant doctors and nurses. OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria says that evolving health and the long-term care needs of aging populations should stimulate innovation in the health sector and that attention should be focused on creating the right jobs with the right skills in the right places. The OECD report recommends that Turkey and other countries implement policies to train a sufficient number of health workers and to ensure that health workers acquire the right skills and competences and are given opportunities for adapting their skills during their working life.
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