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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, June 12) – The doctor population ratio in Fiji stands at one for every 2,344 citizens, the latest health worker to population [data] shows.

And nurses have to work under a ratio of 500:1 while there is one dentist for every 20,000 citizens.

[PIR editor’s note: According to 2004 U.S. Census figures, there were approximately 884,974 doctors in the U.S. – about one doctor to 300 people in the US.]

Permanent Secretary of Health, Doctor Lepani Waqatakirewa gave an overview of Fiji's health services, the Fiji School of Medicine, the Fiji School of Nursing, Public Health, Nursing and Health System Standards, Oral Health and Environmental Health to cabinet last week.

He outlined the ministry's plans and focussed on staffing a key element in the provision of health services in the country.

Dr Waqatakirewa said the 2006 health worker to population ratio was 1: 2344 for doctors, 1: 500 for nurses, 1: 20,000 for dentists, and 1: 13,000 for dental therapists.

He said some challenges on staffing faced by the ministry included dependence on re-employment of retired staff to fill established posts, high proportion of expatriates employed in higher level posts, inadequate supply of medical practitioners, loss of highly trained personnel from Government to the private sector, the geographical distribution of health personnel and the lack of adequate health personnel registration and licensing system.

"There is more demand than can be supplied in the health workforce, especially for medical officers," he said. "However, there is more supply than demand in most health cadres such as X-ray, laboratories, dental. There is a need for a periodic review of staff establishment to meet population increases and health service demands and expansion."

He said there was a need for regulations for some professional groups such as physiotherapists, dieticians and lab technicians etc. He outlined key strategies for staff retention, including an increase in intake at training institutions, having appropriate salary structures and establishing appropriate structures.

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