Nearly 6,000 Saudi doctors including 94 post graduates are jobless, according to statistics released by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties (SCFHS).
Dr. Mahmoud Al-Ahwal, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, has said about half of the medical colleges in the country are new and have not yet graduated any doctors.
The number of Saudi doctors who are seeking job and who have been professionally categorized by the commission as doctors has reached 5,967, the SCFHS said.
Among these jobseekers 5,873 have bachelor's degrees in medicine while 94 have obtained post-graduate degrees in various medical specializations.
The report came at a time when the Health Ministry recruits foreign doctors to meet the requirements of public hospitals across the country.
The total number of students at medical colleges inside the Kingdom is 26,216. Only eight of 37 medical colleges in the country have produced doctors yet, the report said.
Five medical colleges accept only male students while one medical college accepts only female students, Al-Watan Arabic daily said quoting the commission's report.
Al-Ahwal, who is head of the committee of medical college deans, however emphasized the shortage of specialists in the Kingdom, especially in family medicine.
By 2022, 20,436 students are expected to graduate from medical colleges inside the Kingdom.
“Family medicine doctors represent 40 to 50 percent of the total number of doctors globally but in Saudi Arabia they represent only 5 percent,” he added.
“There is a big shortage in the number of family doctors in the Kingdom. The main reason is that we don’t have colleges that produce doctors specialized in family medicine,” he pointed out.
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Al-Ahwal urged the commission to focus on doctors specialized in family medicine.
“There is a shortage of qualified doctors in the northern and southern provinces of the Kingdom as doctors are reluctant to work in the remote regions of the country,” he said.
Al-Ahwal highlighted the government’s efforts to produce adequate number of doctors to meet the Kingdom’s healthcare requirements.
“The problem is 50 percent of public and private medical colleges are newly established and will take time to produce doctors,” said Al-Ahwal.
Of the 37 medical colleges in the Kingdom eight are private. “Some of these colleges do not admit female students due to shortage of teaching staff,” he said.
A lack of hospitals under medical colleges is another reason for the shortage of specialized and trained doctors, he said while emphasizing the need to support government medical colleges to increase the supply of doctors. “We should allocate more funds to establish university hospitals,” Al-Ahwal said.
He said the ministry was forced to recruit foreign doctors due to Saudi doctors’ reluctance to work in remote regions and the shortage of experts in biochemistry, anatomy, pathology and some rare specializations.
“We also suffer from an acute shortage of Saudi staff willing to work at medical colleges,” said Al-Ahwal.
Dr. Nizar Bahbari, an internist and director of academic affairs at Dr. Soliman Fakeeh Hospital in Jeddah, said general doctors required four to five years' experience at specialized hospitals to become specialists. “We don’t have enough hospitals to provide such training,” he added.
Fahd Al-Quthami, spokesman for the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, said there are 303 training centers for doctors in the Kingdom. “The number of seats for higher studies in medicine is on the increase every year,” he told Al-Watan.
“This year for the first time the number of training seats would exceed the number of medical college graduates,” he pointed out.
Of the total medical specialists in the Kingdom only 10,600 are Saudi nationals while the remaining 40,129 are foreigners.
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