Emigrants with medical degrees and stethoscopes join in the quest for greener pastures across the sea

At least 3,000 Greek doctors have emigrated to Britain over the past three years and a large number have left for other countries such as Germany, Sweden and France, because of the surfeit of medical personnel graduating from Greek and foreign universities, as well as innate weaknesses in the health system. An over-concentration of doctors in the larger towns and cities, a wait of up to 10 years to begin specialization training, underemployment and unemployment, as well as low pay are all sending medical graduates abroad. In several cases the approach is made by headhunting bureaus. Advertisements by a British employment agency aimed at medical associations have been found on the Athens Medical Association website, promising British standards of working conditions and pay to Greek doctors. This particular agency works with a private group in Britain that coordinates medical recruitment for the British government, in order to fill vacant posts in the British health system. Quite recently the same agency announced that during 2007, as a continuation of the plan to place Greek doctors in the UK, a number of interviews will be held in Athens. Successful applicants are promised registration with the British Medical Association within two months, six-month contracts, annual salaries of 80,000-160,000 euros with prospects for permanent tenure and free assistance with housing, opening bank accounts and other matters (another agency was asking for a percentage of the doctor’s pay as a fee for these services). These promises, particularly regarding the doctors’ careers, are not always kept, as many are forced to accept jobs in the provinces, in departments that have more to do with welfare than health. A considerable number don’t find jobs at all and return to Greece. Advertisements touting salaries of 45,000 euros for 38 hours’ work a week for radiologists build hopes among young medical graduates who find, after so many years of study, their expectations dashed in their own country. The long years spent waiting for specialization make them easy prey for these agencies. Many graduates attend seminars organized by the British Council to advise Greek doctors interested in acquiring specialization in Britain. The Manpower Organization (OAED) has also held events which have been attended by British experts on medical recruitment.