More than 12,000 doctors have left Greece since 2007, seeking work in Europe and other countries, according to Athens Medical Association (ISA) figures.
As a result, most public hospitals in urban centres are understaffed, while regional health centres can hardly operate as they lack specialists. The majority of doctors currently working are interns and auxiliary doctors, as Proto Thema newspaper reports.
According to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Hellenic Hospital Doctors (POEDIN), the needs for specialized doctors in the National Health System hospitals exceed 6,000 physicians. Health Ministry data show that 7,271 doctors and 2,000 auxiliary doctors are employed in the NHS.
The ISA figures published on Wednesday are indicative of the crisis in Greece’s health system, as 12,048 doctors fled the country from January 2007 through December 2017.
While up until 2009, it was mainly medical school graduates leaving seeking specialization abroad, from late 2010 onward, the picture changed dramatically. Specialists who studied and acquired their medical specialty in Greece, started leaving the country seeking work in other countries. In the last six years, the number of specialized physicians fleeing Greece is steadily more than twice as high as the number of non-specialized doctors.
In 2017, 1,293 physicians applied to ISA and received the necessary certificates to leave and work abroad, of whom 923 are specialized physicians and 370 have no medical specialty. In 2016, 862 specialists and 306 non-specialized physicians left Greece. In 2015, 356 non-specialist doctors and 1,165 specialists fled Greece.
In 2014, a total of 1,380 physicians left, with 1,006 of them being specialists. In 2013, 1,488 physicians left Greece, with 1,086 of them being specialized. In 2012, the medical brain drain hit a record high as 1,808 doctors left Greece with 1,166 of them being specialized physicians.
“Unemployment, uncertainty and the absence of meritocracy are pushing the country’s most skilled staff to seek their fortunes abroad. Greece has now become a medical production matrix, but it is other countries that reap the benefit,” ISA President Giorgos Patoulis told Proto Thema.
The United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and France are the most popular destinations for Greek doctors.
“No (Greek) official has ever dealt with the issue of brain drain. Especially as regards to doctors, where the situation is very disheartening. I believe that if the policy on health does not change, the “bleeding” (of doctors) will intensify. They call for doctors to work in Local Health Units and offer salaries of 1,200 euros, but the doctors will not be hired officially and will have to work as freelancers. What is the incentive for a qualified physician to stay in Greece when he can get a job with much higher salaries and great prospects in Europe?” Mr. Patoulis told Proto Thema.