15% of Tunisia’s physicians are out of work while the country’s interior faces growing scarcities in medical care. According to research recently done by Hajer Skhiri et al. in February 2012, the proportion of non-active physicians reached 15.2% in 2009 and the regional disparities in medical quality have grown larger than in previous years.
What explains this apparent paradox?
Non-active physicians are those who are qualified in their profession but jobless. This category includes physicians who either have immigrated abroad to look for better employment opportunity or are under-skilled. Dr. Mohammed Khrouf, the spokesman for the School of Medicine in Tunis said that “those under-skilled persons prefer to quit the medical field so as not to assume the pressure and responsibility of diagnosis and treatment of patients.”
The Tunisian Ministry of Health is still employing medical staff from China and Russia to address medical shortages in the interior. Skhiri’s research showed as well that regional disparities are even becoming more acute: “there are plenty of medical shortcomings in Tunisia’s interior regions such as old equipment, neglected hospitals, poor logistics, and meager supplies.”
Khrouf pointed out that many physicians are simply reluctant to migrate to the interior for work, give up their urbane lifestyles, and leave behind their families and children.
The interior experiences a shortage of women staff although their numbers have been increasing country-wide, according to Skhiri’s research. “For women, the internal regions are not reassuring in term of security, accommodation and salaries,” explained Khrouf.
The Government is aware of the alarming medical deficiencies in the interior. In response, it has been forcing medical staff to spend at least one year in the interior. Khrouf considers that this policy is unsuccessful since it will only encourage medical staff to go abroad. “It will be a catastrophe like the one we are witnessing today. We have an acute scarcity in anesthetists, many of whom immigrated abroad.”
Skhiri’s research estimated that in Tunisia 217 physicians would be required for 100,000 inhabitants by 2024 while the actual number would barely reach 212 for 100 000 residents.