A rapid transition from severe physician workforce shortage to massive production to ensure the physician workforce demand puts the Ethiopian health care system in a variety of challenges. Therefore, this study discovered how the health system response for physician workforce shortage using the so-called flooding strategy was viewed by different stakeholders.
The study adopted the grounded theory research approach to explore the causes, contexts, and consequences (at the present, in the short and long term) of massive medical student admission to the medical schools on patient care, medical education workforce, and medical students. Forty-three purposively selected individuals were involved in a semi-structured interview from different settings: academics, government health care system, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Data coding, classification, and categorization were assisted using ATLAs.ti qualitative data analysis scientific software.
In relation to the health system response, eight main categories were emerged: (1) reasons for rapid medical education expansion; (2) preparation for medical education expansion; (3) the consequences of rapid medical education expansion; (4) massive production/flooding as human resources for health (HRH) development strategy; (5) cooperation on HRH development; (6) HRH strategies and planning; (7) capacity of system for HRH development; and (8) institutional continuity for HRH development.
The demand for physician workforce and gaining political acceptance were cited as main reasons which motivated the government to scale up the medical education rapidly. However, the rapid expansion was beyond the capacity of medical schools’ human resources, patient flow, and size of teaching hospitals. As a result, there were potential adverse consequences in clinical service delivery, and teaching learning process at the present: “the number should consider the available resources such as number of classrooms, patient flows, medical teachers, library…”. In the future, it was anticipated to end in surplus in physician workforce, unemployment, inefficiency, and pressure on the system: “…flooding may seem a good strategy superficially but it is a dangerous strategy. It may put the country into crisis, even if good physicians are being produced; they may not get a place where to go…”.
Massive physician workforce production which is not closely aligned with the training capacity of the medical schools and the absorption of graduates in to the health system will end up in unanticipated adverse consequences.