Czech Medical Chamber says foreign doctors are not enough to stave off westward brain drain

Photo: imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos

Czech Medical Chamber (ČLK) president Milan Kubek has warned that the country’s healthcare system is becoming increasingly reliant on foreign doctors – but that even these are failing to plug a brain drain gap caused by Czech medical practitioners leaving the country.

Photo: imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos
Czech doctors are increasingly leaving the Czech Republic to find work in more prosperous countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom. Newly released figures for 2015 suggest that 2,557 foreign doctors now operate in the country, a sharp rise from 2003, when their number was just 829. 400 foreign doctors were hired in 2015 alone, with most coming from Slovakia, Ukraine and Russia.

Milan Kubek, president of the Czech Medical Chamber (ČLK), met with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka on Monday to discuss the crisis. Sobotka released a statement after the talks promising to take an active interest in the issue, including addressing under-funding. Speaking to Czech Television afterwards, Kubek adopted a combative tone regarding claims by Finance Minister Andrej Babiš that current healthcare funding was largely adequate:

Milan Kubek,  photo: ČT24
“The problems which have been accumulating here for 20 years far exceed the competences of one particular minister, and if the finance minister feels that healthcare is not important for citizens, then why not say it directly – that the priority is overpriced motorways and more investment in concrete. I believe investments into people are far more important.”

Of around 1,000 doctors to graduate in the Czech Republic last year, 209 then decided to practice medicine abroad, according to Kubek. Add to this a long-term decline in the number of students graduating from medical school. Foreign doctors from outside the EU often also lack the proper medical training, said Kubek. All of this has led to a crisis in which the Chamber says it can no longer guarantee quality healthcare services in the country. Milan Kubek again:

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
“Some hospitals are in a catastrophic state regarding staffing. Patients cannot get hold of GPs, lack of paediatric care is impacting children, doctors are moving abroad, and nurses switching professions. Our healthcare system is crying for help.”

Specific demands include a government increase in wages for medical staff and also increased accessibility to medical education and training facilities. According to the Chamber, tens of billions of crowns will be required to reverse the current crisis. Health minister Svatopluk Němeček has said he welcomes efforts by the Czech Medical Chamber to alert the government to these issues, and conceded that the current healthcare system will require fundamental changes to ensure future sustainability.