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Gaps In Residency Positions Deepen Healthcare Worker Shortage

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The chairman of Iran’s Medical Council has warned about the state of healthcare in the country as significant gaps in critical residency positions threaten the already battered sector.

Mohammad Rais-Zadeh said on Sunday that the gaps are mostly seen within some of the most vital medical specializations like pediatrics, anesthesiologists, and emergency medicine.

The problem has been deepening since 2022 with a growing shortage of doctors, specialists, and dentists across Iran. A huge migration trend has seen medical practitioners looking for jobs abroad seeking better economic conditions amid Iran’s worst economic crisis since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. The 2022 uprising has also led many to seek a life outside of Iran’s increasingly oppressive social conditions.

So bad has the exodus become, that in December, there were calls by officials to ban doctors from migrating abroad. A report released by Iran Open Data (IOD) revealed that the number of doctors who leave Iran to work in more prosperous countries outweighs the number of new doctors by 30 percent on an annual basis.

The exodus of physicians has been seen with midwives and nurses leaving the sector massively under staffed. In May 2022, Iraj Fazel, the president of the Iranian Society of Surgeons, warned that specialties like children’s surgery and heart surgery do not have even a single candidate.

Complicating matters, in March 2023, the Medical Council reported that the exodus of many specialists in pediatric cardiology had left hundreds of children vulnerable, waiting for years to get necessary surgeries. Most healthcare practitioners in Iran live on petty monthly incomes ranging from $200 to $300, which prohibits them from even the most basic requirements, including housing and education for children.

Further, the medical community in Iran is undergoing grave mental health issues. Reports are suggesting an increasing trend in suicide rates, especially among medical residents, as working conditions continue to decline.

In February, the head of the Iranian Psychiatric Association reported 16 suicides in the past year alone, with research indicating that suicide rates in the medical community have risen by 3.1 to 5 times over recent years, leading to the announcement of an investigation into the trend last month.