Aging population prompts demand for more nurses

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Issue 938, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 686
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Macau’s two nursing schools are going to increase the number of student intakes year by year in response to the growing aging population.

The Health Bureau, Education and Youth Affairs Bureau, the Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau and the Polytechnic Institute’s School of Health Sciences jointly organised a seminar yesterday on nursing studies in Macau.

According to nursing director of Centro Hospitalar Conde de S. Januário (CHCSJ), Estela Ma, the ratio of nurses to per 1,000 people was 2.58, whilst that of doctors to per 1,000 people was 2.3 in Macau in 2008.

Comparing to the situation in Hong Kong, there were 5.91 nurses for every 1,000 residents.

The 2008 official statistics showed that 7.2 percent of the nearly half a million Macau residents were 65 years old or above, a proportion that made Macau become an aging society, despite Macau’s aging situation is still “far behind” that in western countries, Ms Ma said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines elderly as people over the age of 65 in developed countries, or over the age of 60 in developing countries.

In addition, the WHO will call a place “aging society” when the elderly people account for over seven percent of the total population, or over 10 percent in respectively developed or developing countries.

The flood of tourists into Macau every year has also created pressure on Macau’s health system, Ms Ma pointed out.

An aging society, according to the CHCSJ nursing director, is mainly caused by the longer life expectancy and decrease in the number of births nowadays.

Ms Ma said that Macau has seen a year-on-year decline in birth rate since 12 years ago, which gave rise to a social phenomenon of “DINK [Double Income No Kid] Family” in the city.

Although the figures showed signs of a slight increase in recent year, she said that it was not able to compensate the growth in the old people population.

The statistics indicated that the birth rate in 1999 stood at 9.7 percent, which then dropped to 8.9 percent in 2000 and eventually to 7.2 percent in 2003.

From 2004 it started to rise from 7.3 percent to 8.6 percent in 2007, but went down slightly to 8.5 percent in 2008.

In the meantime, life expectancy grew year-on-year from 77.7 years old in 1999 to 82 years old in 2008.

Ms Ma said that, based on the forecast from the Statistics and Census Bureau, Macau’s elderly people would make up 12 percent of the total population in 2021, 16 percent in 2026 and 19 percent in 2031.

Therefore, she stressed that it is necessary for the SAR to form a high quality medical team, adding that nurses are an important component of the team with “influential impact” to society.

On the other hand, Michelle Zhu Ming Xia, Association Professor of the Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau, told reporters on the sidelines of the seminar that in the past three years, the school has seen a significant increase in the number of applicants, from around 200 to 400 in 2009.

However, among those 400 candidates, Ms Zhu said only 50 were admitted into their nursing courses.

In a bid to meet the growing demand for nurses, she said that the college has made a 10-year plan in which the number of student intakes will eventually reach 80 to 100 every year.

And starting this year, the college together with the Polytechnic Institute’s School of Health Sciences will gradually increase their student numbers year by year.

“But it still depends on the candidates’ quality and whether or not they have the desire or interest to pursue a career in nursing,” Ms Zhu said.

“Since the number of high school graduates is fixed, an increase in nurses still may not be able to fully fulfill the demand. So we shouldn’t blindly look at the quantity but also the quality. If we can find a high quality student, he or she may equal to having five to 10 other students,” she added.

The Kiang Wu Nursing College currently has no more than 300 students taking various nursing courses.

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