Greek doc­tors con­tinue to em­i­grate in large num­bers

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY PENNY BOULOUTZA

For a sixth con­sec­u­tive year, Greece has been un­able to stem the flow of doc­tors leav­ing the coun­try. The num­bers em­i­grat­ing dur­ing 2016 have been high again, with most opt­ing for work in other Euro­pean coun­tries. The only dif­fer­ence this year is that there has been a slight dip in those leav­ing for the UK, which may be due to Brexit.

Over­all, the Athens Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (ISA) is­sued a to­tal of 1,018 cer­tifi­cates be­tween Jan­uary 1 and Oc­to­ber 24 al­low­ing Greek doc­tors to prac­tice abroad. Dur­ing the whole of 2015, ISA is­sued 1,521 such doc­u­ments, which was slightly higher than the 1,380 in 2014 and 1,488 in 2013. The year which saw the high­est level of em­i­gra­tion among Greek doc­tors was in 2013, when ISA is­sued 1,808 cer­tifi­cates. In to­tal, be­tween 2010 and this year, ISA has read­ied pa­per­work for more than 9,300 med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als look­ing to leave Greece.

The ma­jor­ity of cer­tifi­cates pre­pared this year (719) con­cerned doc­tors who had com­pleted their res­i­den­cies but were not able to find work in Greece. The UK was the most pop­u­lar desti­na­tion (487), fol­lowed by Ger­many (102), Cyprus (77), France (75), Switzer­land (58) and Swe­den (44). Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates have also had a steady pres­ence on the list over the last few years.

The 487 cer­tifi­cates ISA has is­sued for the UK rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion com­pared to last year. The fig­ure is around 300 lower than last year and 2014. In 2013, a to­tal of 863 such doc­u­ments were pre­pared by the as­so­ci­a­tion.

How­ever, clas­si­fied ads for po­si­tions at hos­pi­tals in the UK con­tinue to ap­pear on Greek web­sites. A num­ber of spe­cial­i­ties are be­ing sought and salaries start from about 28,000 pounds per year.

The ads sug­gest that hos­pi­tals in France, Bel­gium, Swe­den and Switzer­land of­fer more at­trac­tive salaries. Pay for doc­tors at Swiss hos­pi­tals start from around 6,000 eu­ros per month. Com­pa­nies in Saudi Ara­bia of­fer even bet­ter terms. One hos­pi­tal group claims it can pro­vide doc­tors with 11,000 eu­ros a month tax free, 40 days va­ca­tion and free lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Short­ages at home

While Greek doc­tors pur­sue their fu­tures abroad, the Greek Na­tional Health Sys­tem (ESY) is buck­ling due to the short­age of med­i­cal staff. Ac­cord­ing to the Fed­er­a­tion of Greek Hos­pi­tal Doc­tors’ Unions (OENGE), Greece lacks some 6,000 spe­cial­ized doc­tors. The vast ma­jor­ity of doc­tors hired over the last few years were on fixed-term con­tracts, which is not a very at­trac­tive propo­si­tion for those in the med­i­cal field. Ac­cord­ing to the Health Min­istry, ESY em­ploys 1,464 aux­il­iary doc­tors at the mo­ment.

“The med­i­cal world has been se­ri­ously af­fected by the cri­sis,” ISA pres­i­dent Gior­gos Pa­toulis told Kathimerini. “The pro­lif­er­a­tion of mostly young doc­tors and the low rate at which they are ab­sorbed into the pub­lic or pri­vate sec­tor cre­ates makes it hard for them to find work and drives wages down. In com­bi­na­tion with the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to set out a sus­tain­able and ef­fec­tive health pol­icy, this has caused an un­prece­dented mi­gra­tory wave. This leaves us fac­ing a para­dox: Even though there is a plethora of un­em­ployed young doc­tors, the health sys­tem is get­ting old and col­laps­ing due to a lack of per­son­nel.”

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