Background: Emerging from civil distress carries with it major challenges to reforming a health system. One such challenge is to ensure an adequate supply of competent human resources. The objective of this study was to assess the supply of physicians in Lebanon in 1998, with an assessment of their practice patterns and capacity building.
Methods: Lists of members of physician's associations were examined to determine the number of physicians in Lebanon and their geographical distribution. A self-administered survey targeted 388 physicians (5%) randomly stratified by the five regions of Lebanon. Some 377 providers reported information on their demographic profile, practice patterns and development. Further, information on continuing education activities was acquired.
Results: In Lebanon, the overall physician-to-population ratio was 248 per 100, 000, characterized by an evident maldistribution at the intracountry regional level. Physicians worked 38 hours per week examining on average 21 patients per day, with an average time of 30 minutes spent per visit. They also reported spending 11% of their time waiting for patients. Respondents reported a very wide range of income, with 90% earning less than USD 2,000 per month. Moreover, the continuing education profile revealed a total of 43.7 hours per year, similar to that required for board certification in many developed countries. Conference attendance was the dominant continuing education activity (95% of respondents) and consumed most of the time allotted for continuing education, reported at 32 hours per year.
Discussion and conclusion: Various economic indicators point to an oversupply of physicians in Lebanon and a poor allocation of their time for capacity building. Therefore, it is crucial for decision-makers to closely monitor the increasing supply of providers and institute appropriate intervention strategies, taking into consideration appropriate provision of good-quality services and ensuring that continuing education activities are well established, organized and monitored.