Officials and lawmakers are warning that Iran may be forced to hire foreign doctors as Iranian physicians are emigrating to other countries in droves.

Dr Mohammad Raeeszadeh, head of Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran, recently warned in a speech at a national gathering on the occasion of Physicians’ Day that wrong government policies is causing disillusionment among young medical practitioners and could lead to a wave of emigration or change of career among them.

Warning about the emigration of medical staff, Dr Ali Javaherforoushzadeh, head of the Medical Council of Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern Khuzestan province, recently told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that in the past year around 300 good standing certificates, which are required for job applications abroad, had been issued for doctors and nurses in the province.

Experts and social scientists in Iran and abroad have told the media that the brain drain in the past few decades, beginning with the 1980-88 war with Iraq, has been accelerated by lack of social freedoms in the clerical-dominated system, political upheavals, deterioration of the economy, and government repression.

Dr Raeeszadeh said many among doctors have no motivation to study further and specialize in fields such as surgery, which are crucial to the country’s healthcare system.

“We will have to dispatch patients abroad for treatment or hire foreign doctors as we did [before the Islamic Revolution more than 40 years ago] if this trend continues,” he said.

Dr Raeeszadeh said that interest in heart surgery has hugely dropped and in the current academic year only two pediatric surgeons graduated in the whole country.

Elaborating on the same subject, Mohammad-Ali Mohseni-Bandpey, a member of the parliament health committee said wrong government policies affecting doctors included ignoring their needs and demands and refusing to allow them to raise their fees despite higher costs of living and running their practices.

For instance, Mohseni-Bandpey explained, the government has allowed private medical practitioners to increase their fees by between 6 to 10 percent but renting a practice is now costing 70 or 80 percent more, the price of equipment has doubled, as have energy costs and the salaries they are paying to the staff at their practices which is up to 60 percent higher than 3 years ago. “They have also set a ceiling [for the fees] in the public sector and the fees that doctors receive are not proportionate to the services they offer.”

According to Mohseni-Bandpey, despite an almost 50 percent annual inflation rate, the government is trying to prevent an similar increase in doctors’ fees, to keep healthcare costs down. He suggested that the government should them to increase their fees but shift the burden to insurance companies rather than patients.

Mohseni-Bandpey told Rouydad 24 news website that Oman, Qatar, and other neighboring countries are attracting not only Iranian doctors but also engineers and those working in the field of humanities.

“These countries use the workforce trained and educated by another country with the least cost,” he said, adding that Hong Kong is currently accepting Iranian students in medical universities and providing them with all their living and educational needs.

“They believe that it would be enough for them if only 10 percent of these students remain in their country, but they don't know that many more will stay and usually not more than 10 percent will come back [to Iran],” he said.

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