German Health Minister Says new Rules Needed to Stop Doctors From Emigrating

German Health Minister Says new Rules Needed to Stop Doctors From Emigrating

Faced with a potential shortage of native doctors and nurses, Germany’s Health Minister strongly urged the EU to consider introducing regulations that would stop healthcare professionals from emigrating to other member states.

Jens Spahn, the Health Minister of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fourth cabinet, has called for more pan-EU regulation that would limit the emigration of healthcare professionals.

In an interview with a Blick am Sonntag, a Swiss tabloid, Spahn said that the chain reaction of EU member states attracting professionals from neighboring countries has reached an all-time high. The pointed out that German healthcare professionals have been migrating en masse to Switzerland, as it offers higher salaries and more benefits, especially to doctors.

“I can understand them. Switzerland is a beautiful country. But what is clear is that there is a shortage of these professionals in Germany. And then Polish doctors work in our country, and in turn, there is a shortage of them in Poland,” he said.

Spahn continued to say that the European Union should consider creating new regulations that would lure away professionals from certain industries within the Union.

The Minister admitted that crafting such regulations would not be an easy task, as any outright bans or fines would fundamentally go against the freedom of movement within Europe.

The World Health Organization currently has similar arrangements in place, Spahn said, adding that they could serve as a model for the regulation that could be instated in Europe. However, he provided no further details on what those arrangements were or how they might be applied within the EU.

When asked whether Germany might charge Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, for the training of emigrated German doctors, Spahn said that while it would be a “nice headline,” it was not his plan.

And while Germany is actively working on tackling the problem of a lack of native healthcare professionals, it’s neither a new problem nor a problem unique to Germany.

Back in 2017, Politico reported that more doctors and nurses move from one country to another than any other highly regulated profession in the EU. A POLITICO analysis of European Commission data found the exodus of health care professionals is especially pronounced from member states in Eastern and Southern Europe.

The survey showed that Romania lost half of its doctors between 2009 and 2015, while 60 percent of fifth- and sixth-year medical students in Poland planned on working abroad after the country joined the EU.

The EU has policies in place that acknowledge its responsibility to protect certain non-EU countries from worsening health care shortages, Politico reported, but hasn’t introduced a similar admission within the Union.

New member states are the ones hit hardest by the mass emigration – since joining the bloc in 2013, Croatia has lost 5 percent of its doctors, which led to a decline in healthcare quality across the country.

(Banner image: Olaf Kosinsky / Wikipedia)

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