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 on Sunday that while healthcare management experts recommend a nurse-to-bed ration 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. “Therefore, Iran needs at least 95,500 extra nurses.”
Abedi added that the shortage means most nurses work an average of 150 hours of overtime per year.
Around 1,000 nurses leave the country each year to pursue better pay and working conditions in 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.
Compounding the problem, Abedi says that 4,000 Iranian nurses might go on maternity leave at any given time, and that should be taken into account. Moreover, according to Abedi, who has a Ph.D. in nursing, every five hospital bed also needs one assistant nurse, which means Iran is lacking about 24,000 assistant nurses.
"It is highly unacceptable that the shortage has forced hospitals to ask the patients' friends and relatives to serve as nurses and look after their loved ones," Abedi said. Other health officials agree the problem is having a negative impact on patient care.
The only way to bridge the gap, according to Abedi, is to hire 10-15 thousand new nurses each year. He predicts this could bring the nurse-to-bed ratio up to an acceptable level by 2025.
Despite the shortage of nurses, Moqaddam told a local website in October that there were nearly 30,000 unemployed nurses across the country. According to Moqaddam, the low pay, excessive hours, and dreadful work conditions push even experienced nurses out of the profession, and they are among those unemployed nurses either seeking a new vocation or who have given up working altogether.
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.