Today, there is a lack of general practitioners and high-level medical specialists in China and the development of the health care work force is unbalanced.
The number of general practitioners accounted for less than 9% of all clinical professionals, while the percentage in developed countries is more than 50%. Furthermore, many of them have a relatively low level of education and lack the skills for carrying out effective diagnoses, treatment and disease prevention and control. There is also a critical shortage of high-level medical specialists, especially those specialized in infectious diseases, pulmonary diseases and public health, which has led to shortfalls in capacity to tackle sudden outbreaks of major epidemics.
The root cause lies in structural problems in the training system of health care work force. More specifically, there is a lack of a well-established training system to produce high-caliber general practitioners and medical specialists; the current medical education system is complicated and sometimes confusing, since there are many types of medical programs of varying duration and the same type of medical programs sometimes confer different types of academic degrees; the distinction between medical degree programs and vocational training is unclear; the duration of medical programs is too long, leading to a waste of educational resources; there is a lack of funds and incentive mechanisms to support the medical education system.
Several proposals were made to address these problems: 1) setting up “5+3” doctoral programs (5 years of undergraduate study plus 3 years of postgraduate study) dedicated to producing general practitioners; 2) rolling out in stages a new and unified training system; 3) stepping up effort to build an education system for specialized clinical professionals; 4) making adequate adjustment to the academic degrees of clinical medical programs; 5) building up a long-term effective training mechanism for primary-level healthcare professionals.