China is facing a chronic shortage of nurses, with poor pay discouraging women from taking up the profession or sticking to their jobs, Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an told a press conference ahead of Saturday's International Nurses Day.
"To redress the situation, the ministry is considering a salary boost for nurses whose earnings currently fail to match their heavy workload," Mao said at the conference on Wednesday.
By the end of 2006 China had 1,426,000 nurses, accounting for almost 31 percent of the nation's medical workers, according to Ministry statistics.
But despite a substantial increase in the number of nurses in recent years, nursing services still fall short of surging medical need, said Mao.
At present the nurse-to-patient ratio is very low compared with that of western countries. In Beijing one nurse is in charge of at least four patients even in the best-equipped 3A public hospitals, according to data from the Beijing Health Bureau.
A Beijing nurse surnamed Xue told China Daily many of her colleagues had left the profession because they were unhappy with the poor pay, bad working environment and exhausting work.
The situation is even worse in smaller local hospitals and is thought to seriously affect the quality of care patients receive.
Increasing the number of nurses is at the top of the Ministry of Health's agenda, said Mao.
By the end of 2010, nurses at Beijing's 3A hospitals should only have to look after a maximum of two patients at a time, he said.
In addition to raising their pay, providing a positive working environment will also be an important step, Mao said.
(China Daily May 12, 2007)