Czechia faces shortage of doctors in outpatient care

Photo: Khalil Baalbaki

The Czech Union of Private Practitioners is ringing alarm bells. According to their data, the Czech Republic will lack around 800 medical specialists and general practitioners by the year 2020. The union says a deepening divide between salaries in hospitals and outpatient care is largely to blame.

Photo: Khalil Baalbaki
In the Czech Republic, there are currently around 20,000 paediatricians, medical specialists and dentists working in outpatient care. But according to data provided by the Institute of Health Information and Statistics, that figure could drop by around 1,200 in the next three years.

The Union of Private Practitioners on Wednesday held a press conference to address the issue. Petr Šonka, who works as a general practitioner, is the union’s spokesman:

“We wanted to highlight the critical situation in outpatient care in the Czech Republic. If no steps are taken in the near future, the whole network could collapse, and it would definitely become increasingly inaccessible for patients.

“That is a problem, because one of the benefits of outpatient care is that it is accessible to everyone. The state of the country’s outpatient care reveals the overall standard of its health services and without it, they cannot be effective.”

The lack of general practitioners and medical specialists has already made itself felt in some regions of the Czech Republic, especially in the border areas.

In many cases, it is impossible to find a replacement for doctors who go into retirement. As a result, patients have to travel long distances to receive medical care.

According to Petr Šonka, the main reason behind the outflow of doctors is a lack of financial incentives:

“The Ministry of Health has been ignoring general practitioners and focused primarily on hospital care. This trend is completely opposite from Western Europe, where most finances are directed towards outpatient care.

Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“As a result, we cannot improve the standard of care and fail to attract enough employees. For most medical school graduates, these jobs are not attractive enough, because they don’t pay as well as in hospitals.”

In the Czech Republic, there has been a huge demand for doctors both in hospitals and outpatient care and medical school graduates can therefore choose where they want to work. Many of them prefer to go abroad, where working conditions are better.

Another problem raised by the Union of Practitioners is the increasing amount of bureaucracy. Small offices often have to deal with the same amount of paper work as hospitals, without having the additional administrative staff.

In the future, the union wants to step up their pressure on the Health Ministry to earmark more funds for outpatient care. Meanwhile, Finance Minister Miroslav Ludvík says he is willing to increase their salaries only if they extend their working hours, arguing that hospitals provide nonstop care.