Is there a shortage of physicians in the Philippines?

in Medicine by

The World Health Organization (WHO) use these core health indicators to determine the status of health and healthcare delivery systems in a particular country. One of these indicators directly concern me as a Filipino physician. It actually scares me the most.

Is there a shortage of physicians in the Philippines?

To answer this question, I tried searching available statistics in the net, evaluated the credibility of these sources and studied the parameters in understanding these statistics. The results surprised me more than being confused some more.

Take a look at this graphical presentations and their sources.

A graph representing the estimated number of physician(s)per 1,000 Filipinos from 1960 to 2002 (Source the WHO and reproduced here)

The same data noted the following trends:
For the whole of the period 1960-2002, an annual mean of 0.4 is recorded for this country. 1997 shows the highest level (1.2),1992 records the lowest (0.1). In this case, the registered change equals 695%. These numbers are based on the results for 14 years of the period 1960-2002.

Take note, 695% increase, in 42 years. According to this data, there is approximately 1.2 physician per 1,000 Filipinos. Roughly, the same estimates as that of WHO listed here.

Compare this statistic with that published in Philippines Special Report: The Health Care System in the Philippines December 2001 produced by MCA Ltd.

According to Asian Development Bank there is approximately one doctor per 9,869 Filipinos…

Whichever statistics you’re believing compare that with the regional and worldwide statistics in this graph.

Physician density per 10000 population per region (2008)

One thing is for sure. We lag behind our Asian neighbors and globally!

How big is the impact of this indicator in the over all health care delivery system of the country?

That I hope I can answer in my future post!

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (