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    Suspension of Higher Education in Costa Rica Due to the Pandemic Threatens Shortage of Medical Specialists

    College and universities ask to reactivate the process to avoid impact on the health system

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    The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a negative impact on the training of medical specialists, as most higher-education programs have been on hiatus for almost a year. Faced with this situation, both the College of Physicians and the universities that train doctors ask to reactivate the process to avoid an impact on the Tico health system.

    And it is that of the 51 specialties with active residents last year, 25 suspended the second semester, 14 continued and 12 presented different scenarios to their students. This threatens to create a deficit of specialists, mainly due to the lack of trained professionals to replace the quotas of those retiring.

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    No replacement for retirees

    Figures from the College of Physicians and Surgeons reveal that 588 medical specialists have retired in the last 4 years, out of the little more than 7 thousand health specialists that the country has.

    Only in Gynecology and Obstetrics 40 doctors withdrew in that period and the 74 residents of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) and 10 of the University of Medical Sciences (Ucimed) who could replace them could not continue their studies in the second semester of 2020.

    Emergency Medicine also failed to continue the training of its 29 residents, despite the lack of eleven specialists due to retirement. The same happened with the 69 residents of Internal Medicine, who are trained to replace the 38 retired doctors.

    Another aspect that increases concern is that the specialists that will be needed to cover the expansions and new openings that the CCSS is carrying out in the different hospitals and health centers in the country are not being trained.

    College of Physicians and Surgeons urge action

    “We believe that residents can now continue with their study process, even without ceasing to support the care of the Pandemic; It is necessary for them to continue with their training process as specialists, because almost a year has passed since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Luis Carlos Pastor, president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

    In his opinion, if the training of these doctors is not restarted, in the short term, the health system would experience a considerable decrease in the number of graduated specialists, which would be detrimental to the health and care of patients, since, on average, the training of specialists takes 4 to 7 years. For their part, the universities are ready to continue, by involving virtuality, waiting for the training process to be reactivated as of February 1st.

    Universities ready to re-start

    “On behalf of the UCR and the Postgraduate Program in Medical Specialties, we consider that at this moment we are already making the last adjustments to be able to restart the Specialist Training Program. Obviously we had to make changes, virtuality and other variations were included, but we do believe that it is urgent to restart training, so as not to have a long-term deficit. We have done everything possible so that quality is maintained in the specialists that are trained,” said Flory Morera, director of the Graduate Program in Medical Specialties at the UCR. In the case of Ucimed, its rector Pablo Guzmán, considered that “at this moment the education of specialists cannot be stopped due to the Pandemic; I believe that rather it must be strengthened, because specialists will be needed for the future, with the problem that we have of late appointments and to provide all their support. They require the correct training and it is our duty to make sure they receive it.”

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