With most of medical students and new doctors in the Middle East shying away from specialising in healthcare for the elderly, countries in the region are experiencing a shortage of trained geriatricians.
Speaking to Qatar Tribune on the sidelines of the fourth Advanced Post-Graduate Course in Geriatrics conference organised by the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) in collaboration with the Middle East Academy for Medicine and Aging (MEAMA) on Wednesday, MEAMA Chairman Dr Abdulrazak Abyad said, “The main problem is that we don’t have enough physicians with formal training in geriatrics. For example, there are only two geriatric specialists in Qatar, Bahrain has maybe two or three and Saudi Arabia five. The number is too small compared to what we need. The region actually needs around 2,000 geriatricians.”
He said, as an alternative, the post-graduate training in geriatrics is provided to family physicians in the region every six months to teach them the principles of geriatric medicine. On what hinders many doctors from specialising in geriatrics, Abyad said, “In the mind of many doctors, geriatrics is a sad specialty in which you deal with patients who are at the end of their life.
“There are a lot of deaths, pain and things you cannot fix anymore. But this is not entirely true because we know a lot of elderly people who live healthy and active lives. Another aspect is that geriatric doesn’t generate a lot of money unlike plastic surgery or cardiology. The government has a role to play by offering higher salaries for geriatricians.”
The increase in demand for more geriatricians remains a major challenge in the region. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that the number of persons aged 60 and older in the Eastern and Mediterranean region will make up nearly 8.7 percent of the population in 2025 and about 50 percent by 2050. In 2000, the population of the elderly people in the region stood at 26.8 million, representing 5.8 percent of the total population.
Also, one of the WHO guidelines for elderly care is the integration of a geriatric curriculum in medical schools.
Abyad said, “Unfortunately, in our part of the world, a lot of medical schools have not yet integrated education in care of the elderly in their curriculum. Some schools have started but we are still lagging behind compared to medical schools and post-graduate training centres in the United States and Europe. We also don’t have any school yet in the region that is providing a fellowship training programme for doctors specialising in geriatrics. Some of the big universities in the region should start these programmes.”
However, Abyad said that there have been some positive changes in the care for the elderly in the region. He said: “The voice of the elderly in the region is becoming more important and effective. If you compare the situation today to the one 10 years ago, you will find that things are changing for the better.
If you talked about holding a geriatric conference 10 years ago, nobody would support you. But now, many governments and organisations are willing to support the cause of the elderly.”
source: Qatar Tribune
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