Self Governance of Medical Profession Threatened

A warning that governments around the world are working on a global strategy to reduce the influence of the medical profession has come from the Secretary General of the World Medical Association, Dr Otmar Kloiber.

He said that by steady steps, governments were taking away degrees of freedom from the profession's self governing bodies. 'And this is not a cosmetic change - it means democratic participation is being dismantled.'

'We've seen it across Europe, we've seen it in New Zealand, in Hong Kong and elsewhere,' he said. 'This is something that is going on very silently, with small steps in many countries. I believe that this is an action that is to some extent concerted.'

He said that the World Medical Association had to develop its advocacy to combat this on an international level, arguing the case that the medical profession does at least as good a job as government. 'In most cases, the self governing bodies do much better, but governments often do not like to accept that.'

Dr Kloiber also referred to the trend in many countries towards downgrading the role of physicians. He said the recent World Health Organisation report on healthcare workforce may be read as suggesting a shift in financial resources away from the training of health professionals to the use of less well trained lay personnel. He described this as a return to the concept of 'barefoot doctors'.

'The argument is that training doctors and other health professionals is too expensive. I find this tendency very worrying and I believe it is the wrong way to go. Health care systems should be improved by strengthening the health professional workforce and by so doing, giving patients better treatment.

'People deserve to receive medical treatment by physicians. Physicians have received the right training, have the skills and the knowledge to provide medical treatment. To deny medical treatment by physicians simply in order to cut down on costs is unacceptable.

'Building a health care system is building a future and is an investment for the next generation. Investing in today's doctors and in their education and training is a step in the right direction towards improving patient safety.
Diminishing physicians' roles is not in the best interests of patients and something must be done to reverse this trend.'