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Alba Iulia
Thursday, October 14, 2021

Doctor – Patient Ratio in Zambia – Where Do We Stand?

Health Doctor - Patient Ratio in Zambia - Where Do We Stand?

The World Health Organization WHO has published desirable doctor–patient ratio as 1:1,000. Yet, over 44% of WHO Member States reported less than one physician per 1,000 population. Zambia, like other low-middle income countries in the world, is working towards the attainment of universal health coverage and access to quality health care for all by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda.

According to the World Health Organization, the doctor-patient-ratio in Zambia is pegged at 1 doctor for every 12,000 patients – as opposed to the WHO’s acceptable standard of 1 physician to every 5,000 people. Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the estimated shortage of Doctors, Nurses and Midwives is about 14, 960. However, with projected population growth, the deficits more than double to 25, 849 by 2020 and more than 46, 000 by 2035. To enable the health sector attain the milestone of curbing the shortage of human resource for health capital development, one strategy is for public and private higher learning institutions to contribute to helping government realize the recommended goals. In line with the Zambia Vision 2030 and National Health Strategic Plan 2017-2021 of having a nation of healthy people and mission of providing equitable access to quality, safe, and cost-effective medical facility for all, attainment of such a vision requires a robust health care workforce to deliver the service.

At present, Zambia only has four government run institutions that train doctors, namely The University of Zambia, The Copperbelt University, Mulungushi University and recently opened Levy Mwanawasa Medical University. In addition, there are a few private universities such as Texila American University, Lusaka Apex University, Cavendish University and University of Lusaka, bridging the gap in the medical training sector and their output is not enough to reduce the deficit in the coming years. The total number of Health Professional graduates increased from 2, 246 in 2010 to 3, 539 in 2013.

A Dermatologist at the University Teaching Hospital who spoke on condition of anonymity said she is in a department which gives her liberty to properly interact with her patients. However, she recalls how busy her time was in departments such as Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. Because of the number of patients she had to attend to, time to talk to her patients was limited. She says she had to attend to an average of about 30 patients in any given shift. She applauded governments’ efforts at employing more doctors in the field of medicine to attend to the growing population.

Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said that government has embarked on a seven-year project to build six hundred and fifty health centers across the country and increase medical training schools. Around 200 students graduate from Zambia’s two government run medical training schools annually. Dr Chilufya said most of the medical students that graduate are accepted for practice in hospitals across the country. However, due to poor working conditions in Zambia, they later travel overseas, especially to the United Kingdom, in search of greener pastures. “Zambia has to almost double the number of health workers from current 42, 630 to 80, 274 by training and recruiting an additional 37, 644 health personnel by 2025.”

According to the National Human Resources for Health Strategic Plan for 2018 – 2024, it is government’s position that absorption of health workforce either by government, the private sector or development partners should be prioritized in the next 5 to 10 years.

Private run Texila American University Vice Chancellor Dr Vijayakumar says his institution aims at training competent students into exceptional doctors. He adds that quality of doctors produced by the university is a priority because people’s lives depend on it. “The ultimate purpose of our Health Programs is to strengthen the health sector and services in Zambia and the region by training health professionals with unique technical skills that are essential to support and complement the health care services provided by government. Texila commits to contribute to human capital development that meets the legitimate need of unmet medical services, especially in the rural and service-deprived areas, by creating a strong and sustainable health care professionals human resource base for health care in Zambia and the region; expand efficient medical services to rural, primary and tertiary health care settings; and empower citizens through transformative quality education of high school graduates to pursue a career in health care”, he said.


  1. That a minister makes more money than a physician in Zambia, should begin to tell you why this is more of a priority issue than it is a resource limitation issue. Dununa reverse.

  2. Funny enough, nothing has been mentioned on the doctors that graduated from UNZA and CBU, last year, to this day none of them have been employed. What is the ministry doing about that?

  3. According to Dr.Chitalu Chilufya and speaking on behalf of the great humble leader Edgar Lungu, 1 doctor to 12 000 patients in Zambia is a great legacy goal achievement . It could have been worse at 1 to 15 000. Pathetic!!

  4. Zambians we believe in witchcraft. Don’t ask a Zambian to donate blood, then they will scream “satanist”, and mob will burn a clinic.
    Just blood for medical aid, some private hospitals resort to “stealing” .
    The nonsense going on in Zambia of gassing and drawing blood, or ritual nonsense must come from private hospitals who can’t convince Zambians to donate or sell blood or their kidneys.

  5. In Zambia you are better off doing like the muzungu and now increasingly Indians do ,

    Just get your self a nice farm or live in the bush with self sustenance and let the savages corrupt and kill each other in the towns…..

  6. The doctor -patient ratio is not a real issue in Zambia . We have clinicians to do the work at an affordable cost to the Zambian economy. the issues we should be discussing are our training strategies for healthcare workers and the structure of our healthcare system to promote primary healthcare according to the recommendations of WHO expert committees. the fact that the West and America talk about Doctor patient -ratio should not disorient us. We have a lot we can do with our current human resource for health.

  7. There are many doctors languishing because of unemployment. Those who have been fortunate (or unfortunate) to be employed are still fighting to be paid. This is why the doctor patient ratio is poor in zambia.

  8. Fake news with questionable statistics. Those with eyes can see the unprecedented building of hospital infrastructure under our hardworking peoples pf government. Kz

  9. There is a very big problem with this post. The author continues to conflate doctors and other healthcare workers numbers. As a result, the headline is misleading. Furthermore, doctors do not go abroad to seek greener pastures. They go abroad for training and better learning opportunities. It is starting families that discourage young doctors from going back. Remember that it takes 7 years for a doctor to specialise. By the time he finishes his training, his child is in a primary school. Should he uproot family and go back to be posted to Kapatamoyo? How many ministers have sent their children to a rural primary school, let alone a state school in Lusaka?
    This rush to train so many doctors per year should be done carefully, otherwise you will be sending assassins into hospitals.

  10. You missed it by a mile Baba. We are talking Zambian trained physicians taking their talents elsewhere. They are willing to uproot families to leave but not willing to uproot them to return.

  11. A public health disaster is looming in Zambia as a result of a future where we will rely on poorly trained doctors. Apart from Unza none of those institutions such as CBU, Mulungushi University, Levey Mwanawasa Medical University even worse the private ones like Lusaka Apex University, Cavendish University and Unlilas have the capacity to train medical doctors. The key ingredient to training doctors are specialist consultants who have been developed for this task. Are those universities located next to affiliated teaching hospitals? How do you train doctors without patients? Will students be taught by specialists?

  12. Very true indeed. UNZA is the is the best equipped and most credible institution for training medical doctors. CBU is second best as it uses Kitwe and Ndola Teaching hospitals as training hospitals; these hospitals also have a reasonable of specialist consultants. Levy Mwanawasa is next in line. My only worry with Levy Mwanawasa is that it is the only university answerable to the Minister of Health who also appoints all key office holders!
    The medical schools at the private universities are not only a big joke but plainly dangerous. Students who failed to make it to UNZA’s School of Medicine are their main clients. Any medical doctor – even one who is not a specialist consultant – qualifies as a lecturer at these private medical schools! God help us!

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