Minister has plan to stop doctors exodus – but young practitioners are unconvinced

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There is a serious shortage of young doctors entering the Czech health system, with many physicians choosing to work in Western countries instead. In response, the Ministry of Health is considering measures that would oblige doctors to remain in the country for a certain period after their studies. However, many in the target group say the problem lies elsewhere.

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Becoming a doctor involves a post-university period of practical training. In America this is known as residency, in Britain as a training position and in the Czech Republic as a pre-attestation period.

The Czech state currently spends up to CZK 2.5 million in salaries and subsidies for each such trainee over a period of three or four years.

But with the number of doctors falling dangerously, Health Minister Adam Vojtěch has a plan. He told TV Prima on Sunday that his department was considering exchanging this state support for a pledge by trainees to remain working in the Czech health system after their pre-attestation period.

“It is a subject of debate, but we are talking of a period between three to four years. We would want them to remain in the Czech health system after they become full doctors, in return for receiving attestation, which is after all financed by the state. This period is the same length that medical training goes on for.”

Currently there is a 15-percent deficit of doctors and their average age is worryingly high, meaning that once the old cohort leaves there could be an even greater shortage.

However, Mr. Vojtěch’s idea is evidently not popular among those whom it is aimed at.

Dr. Jiří Šedo, the deputy head of Mladí lékaři, a union of Czech medicine students and young doctors, says that such a policy could cause an even greater exodus of young doctors abroad.

“Generally, we believe this idea would not work and could be counterproductive. Doctors would have another obligation added to the many problems they are already facing, and it could mean further motivation to move abroad as soon as they graduate. That means they would not be a part of the Czech health system at all.”

Photo: Honza Ptáček / Czech Radio
Medical graduates in the European Union have a right to undertake their training in any member state they want to, if they find a free position. Graduates could therefore simply choose to get their practical education elsewhere.

Dr. Šedo says the exodus is not just due to salaries, which have experienced a two-fold increase in the past 10 years. Rather, it is the culture in Czech hospitals, where trainee education does not work.

Some doctors in training are also shocked by the conditions in Czech hospitals.

David is a 23-year-old medical student currently undertaking an internship in Taiwan. He says he wants to work in the Czech Republic, but that his personal experiences and advice from senior doctors have given him doubts about the country’s health system.

“The problem is that in the current condition in our hospitals, we have to work against our moral code and that’s bad. For example, a doctor who sees a patient and knows he needs to be put in a bed, because he is in danger, but he has no place for him. It is absolutely against everything we ever swore on and doctors do not want to work against their own moral codex.”