The state of the surgical workforce in Brazil

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

A critical insufficiency of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians exists around the world, leaving billions of people without access to safe operative care. The distribution of the surgical workforce in Brazil, however, is poorly described and rarely assessed. Though the surgical workforce is only one element in the surgical system, this study aimed to map and characterize the distribution of the surgical workforce in Brazil in order to stimulate discussion on future surgical policy reforms.

METHODS

The distribution of the surgical workforce was extracted from the Brazilian Federal Medical Board registry as of July 2014. Included in the surgical workforce were surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians.

RESULTS

There are 95,169 surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians in the surgical workforce of Brazil, creating a surgical workforce density of 46.55/100,000 population. This varies from 20.21/100,000 population in the North Region up to 60.32/100,000 population in the South Region. A total of 75.2% of the surgical workforce is located in the 100 biggest cities in Brazil, where only 40.4% of the population lives. The average age of a physician in the surgical workforce is 46.6 years. Women make up 30.0% of the surgical workforce, 15.8% of surgeons, 36.6% of anesthesiologists, and 53.8% of obstetricians and gynecologists.

CONCLUSION

Brazil has a substantial surgical workforce, but inequalities in its distribution are concerning. There is an urgent need for increased surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians in states like Pará, Amapá, and Maranhão. Female surgeons and anesthesiologists are particularly lacking in the surgical workforce, and incentives to recruit these physicians are necessary. Government policies and leadership from health organizations are required to ensure that the surgical workforce will be more evenly distributed in the future.

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