Physicians: many are qualified, few are chosen

  • Belgium, especially the Francophone side, qualifies an enormous number of physicians who can’t practice medicine locally.
  • At the same time young doctors stay away from general medicine.

It’s well known that the Belgian economy runs at two different speeds. Medical education works the same way. Between now and 2017, Flanders will qualify 3,341 physicians (based on statistics from previous years), while the state will grant 2,829 Inami numbers. This is an excess of 512 physicians over 4 years. In the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, on the other hand, where access to graduate studies remains a bit more open, the figures are more troubling. There will be over 3,000 physicians qualified over the next four years while there will be only 1,886 Inami numbers available. In 2017 alone 1,072 physicians will enter the marketplace when the quota is set at 492. In total over four years, the Wallonia Brussels Federation will finance the studies of 1,120 future physicians who will not be able to open an office or work in a hospital – given the current state of affairs. In addition things won’t change in the years that follow. The Medical Students Committee (see Le Soir 11/8) thinks that 4,000 young physicians will find themselves in a similar situation between now and 2020!


While the planning Commission spoke of a “very problematic situation” and asked that “new measures be taken”, senator Brotchi (MR) questioned justice minister Laurette Onkelinx on the subject Thursday, calling the situation “a real waste. First, from a financial point of view, and for parents and for the authorities because everyone knows that medical education is very expensive. Next, from the point of the medical quality: this job is learned at the bedside, but we don’t have room to include everyone.” Are too many students being trained compared to the need for doctors? “Only a detailed activity study will provide that information, but such a study doesn’t exist.”


Whatever that information may reveal, the senator recommends a “quota beginning at medical school admissions, at least by an obligatory and restrictive aptitude exam to filter candidates. That must be accompanied by the establishment of a year of preparatory courses so as not to damage the prospects of those who can’t make the grade.”


There’s no need for a study to see that in the field there is a serious shortage of family physicians. In fact, if too many physicians are being trained, far too many specialists are being trained. In Flanders the planning commission says there was a deficit of 361 general practitioners compared to the minimum quotas between 2004 and 2012. This is also a troubling situation, but less so in the French Community. They have a shortage of 100 general practitioners. Where does the fault lie? Partly that of some educators. While for the general public, a family physician is almost at the top of the social scale; they are at ground level within the profession. That is ingrained in students starting in their first year!



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