A member of Iranian healthcare professional community

Emigration Of Professionals Challenges Iran's Healthcare System

Monday, 05/08/2023
Maryam Sinaiee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

Driven by economic and professional problems, as well as lack of social and political freedoms, an increasing number of Iran's healthcare professionals emigrate. 

Thousands of physicians, dentists, midwives, and nurses have either emigrated in the past few years or are planning to leave for other countries. 

Many in Iran, including lawmakers, have repeatedly warned that the ever-increasing desire of healthcare professionals to leave will result in the deterioration of the country’s healthcare system. 

Government officials, however, refuse to acknowledge the problem. In an interview with the official news agency IRNA in November, health minister Bahram Eynollahi claimed that concerns over emigration of healthcare professionals were fabricated by the media. 

Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi

An official of the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRIMC), Mansour Jafari-Namin, said Sunday the government and parliament must prevent the exodus of the “nation’s wealth” by providing suitable and secure jobs, as well as good income for medical professionals.

Speaking at a ceremony in Ardabil to honor the international Midwives Day (May 5), Jafari-Namin said over 800 midwives have emigrated in the past Iranian year only (March 2022-March 2023). 

IRIMC is a non-governmental licensing and regulatory body and a recognized trade union for Iranian medical doctors with nearly 300,000 registered members who elect the president of the council. 

There are no transparent data on the emigration of healthcare and other professionals, but medical officials and lawmakers often offer fragmentary information on the scope of the problem.

In February, Mohammad Sharifi-Moghadam, a member of the central council of Iran's Nurses’ Organization, said between 2,500 to 3,000 nurses were emigrating from Iran each year, based on the number of requests for good standing certificates, confirming that the applicant is entitled to practice medicine in the country.

“Even this number is not accurate,” Sharifi-Moghadam said, explaining that some people may take other routes for emigrating which do not require good standing certificates. He attributed nurses’ wish to leave for work in other countries to their income level which is much lower in Iran, due to the devaluation of the national currency inflation currently more than 50 percent. 

According to Sharifi-Moghadam, the most popular destinations of emigrating nurses were Germany, the United States, Australia and Canada. 

A member of the parliament’s health committee, Yahya Ebrahimi, said in December that a big percentage of doctors were going to Persian Gulf Arab countries. Oman, particularly, has become a very popular destination for doctors in recent years. 

Like IRIMC, Nurses organization is a licensing and regulatory body and a recognized trade union. 

MP Mohammad-Ali Mohseni-Bandpey

In April 2022 an IRIMC official had also warned that around 4,000 doctors from different age groups had applied for certificates of good standing within the previous year to emigrate, up from around 600 in the years between 2013 and 2015. 

Mohammad-Ali Mohseni-Bandpey, a member of the parliament’s health committee, in January said wrong government policies affecting doctors included refusing to allow them to raise their fees despite higher cost of living and maintaining a practice. 

Physicians and other health professionals’ maximum fees as well as private hospitals’ tariffs are set and announced by the government annually. 

A survey by Iran Migration Observatory in 2022 found that economic and social instability, institutionalized corruption, and the regime’s governance methods were responsible for the very high desire to emigrate among medical students, professors and other healthcare professional. The report warned that those who failed to emigrate were in danger of losing their motivation for work.

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