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Iran Faces 'Serious Shortage' Of Doctors Due To Emigration

File photo - An operating room in an Iranian hospital.

The Islamic Republic's Deputy Health Minister says Iran is suffering from a "serious shortage of physicians," since thousands of local doctors have emigrated.

Speaking to the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), Iraj Harirchi disclosed, "For every 1,000 Iranians, there are only 1.6 general practitioners, dentists, and specialists, while the least ratio to meet the country's demands should be 2.5 doctors per 1,000 persons."

The proportion of physicians to population is among the criteria of a nation's development in the health sector. Data on health workers (physicians, nurses and midwives, and community health workers) density show the availability of medical personnel.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 2.5 physicians, nurses, and midwives per 1,000 people are needed to provide sufficient coverage with primary care.

Earlier, Harirchi had revealed that 15,000 physicians in Iran quitted practicing since many of them either immigrated or changed their profession.

Local news outlets in Iran reported three years ago that 1,980 physicians left the country in the two previous years.

Furthermore, Health Ministry officials have announced that more than 1,000 nurses leave Iran every year.

Iranian hospitals are dealing with a shortage of nearly 100,000 nurses, according to Parliament's Health Commission Speaker Heidarali Abedi.

Abedi told the commission last November that while healthcare management experts recommend a nurse-to-bed ratio of 2.5, Iran's current ratio is closer to 1.7.

"There are only 89,000 nurses currently working in the country's hospitals," said the reformist MP from Isfahan, adding the country needs tens of thousands of more nurses.

Abedi also maintained that the shortage means most nurses work an average of 150 hours of overtime per year.

Nurses leave the country to pursue better pay and working conditions in Australia, Europe, and North America, the Vice President of the Iranian Nursing Organization Mohammad Sharifi Moqddam, said earlier this year.

"Most of the Iranian nurses emigrate to Australia, Canada, the U.K., The Netherlands, and Switzerland," Moqaddam said. Turkey and Persian Gulf countries also draw many of Iran's nurses with better pay and conditions.

Iranian nurses, who have repeatedly gone on strike to protest their work conditions, are particularly dissatisfied with the implementation of the third phase of a governmental plan called "Health Development."

The plan, the nurses argue, has led to a three-fold rise in physicians' pay, but no significant increase in nurses' pay.

While Iran is suffering from a shortage of doctors and nurses, Harirchi proudly declared on June 19 that 300,000 foreign tourists annually visit Iran for health purposes.

"The government has earned more than 1.2 billion dollars in revenues from health tourism," Harirchi boasted, adding, "Iran is striving to become a hub of health tourism and serve friendly and neighboring countries."