Greek doctors continue to emigrate in large numbers

Greek doctors continue to emigrate in large numbers

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 it produced 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.

UK decline

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 over the last few years,” 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 serious challenges for them in finding 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 young doctors who are unemployed, the health system is getting old and collapsing due to a lack of personnel.” 

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