Rwanda in need of more doctors

Saturday September 3 2016

Doctors attending to a patient in Butaro

Doctors attending to a patient in Butaro Hospital. The Rwandan government is under pressure to increase the number of medical doctors. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Robert Mbaraga

Rwanda government remains under pressure to increase the number of medical doctors in the country to meet the desired international health staffing standards, despite recent increment in enrolment.

The government has set a target of one physician per 10,000 people ratio before the year 2020. According to WHO recommendations, a minimum of 2.5 health workers per 1,000 people is fair, but the organisation’s famous recommendation of one doctor per 1,000 populations is hardly met worldwide.

The Global Health Observatory data shows that about 44 per cent of WHO member states report to have less than one physician per 1,000 population.

This week the ministry of health deployed 94 junior medical officers who have been doing their internship since last year, and another 74 were commissioned to start their one-year professional internship.

“The deployed doctors will increase the number of medical doctors in the country but we still have a shortage,” said Patrick Ndimubanzi, the state minister for health.

According to the Rwanda Medical and Dental Council (RMDC) data, the newly deployed doctors add on the existing list of 1,176 general practitioners and 495 specialists in different fields Considering an estimated population of almost 12 million, Rwanda counts an average of one doctor per 12,000 people.

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The projection from the 2012 fourth Population and Housing Census indicates that Rwandans will be 12.7 million in 2020.

This means that the country needs to constantly put on the market an average of 80 doctors per year to meet the one physician per 10,000 populations ratio by 2020.

Numbers from the University of Rwanda, indicate that its medical school is capable of graduating an average of 90 doctors in three years to come, but not all of them go directly into practice as some go for further studies. Recently, University of Gitwe was licensed to start offering medical studies.

Though the ministry hails the significant increase of medical personnel in the country international standards show that there is still a pressing need for quantity and quality of health professionals to ensure delivery of quality health services.

On the other hand, analysts say the government needs to address the high turnover from the public sector. There have been constant reports of some who opt out of the profession to join other lucrative careers or to join non-governmental organisations working in the health sector.

“We are aware of doctor’s complaints and are pushing for your welfare. The government did not invest much money in you, to lose you at the end,” Dr Emmanuel Rudakemwa head of the Rwanda Medical and Dental Council told junior doctors.

In its 2014 national human resources for health policy, the ministry of health committed to improving retention of health professionals and the ministry of health says it is considering options including salary increment.