Thursday, May 24, 2007

Romania faces health care crisis

By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 24/05/07


More than 50% of Romanian doctors and 75% of medical specialists plan to leave the country and continue their practice in Western Europe, a survey by the Iasi County Medical College shows. Since Romania joined the EU on January 1st, around 1,900 physicians and 1,100 nurses have applied for conformity certificates that will allow them to work in other EU member states. Given the high demand for physicians in Romania, especially in rural areas, the situation is alarming.

The Iasi survey also shows that 61% of the doctors described the country's healthcare system reform as stationary, 21% thought that the reform will be ineffective, while only 19% believed that the reform will make a difference.

About 48% of doctors say that funding is the main problem with the Romanian medical system, while 40% blame the way in which the health care system is set up. Some doctors cite the lack of medical equipment as the central problem, while others blame corruption within the system.

Among the surveyed doctors, 26% said they earn between 200 and 300 euros per month, 24% said they earn between 150 and 200 euros and 15% said they make over 500 euros a month. Compared to the starting salary of an intern in Germany, which is around 1,800 euros per month, a doctor in Romania earns ten times less than colleagues in Western Europe.

Another incentive is that various medical specialists are in high demand across Europe. Spain has announced that its health care system is short of nearly 3,000 doctors, and the UK needs 400 dentists. As Romania is a new member state, university degrees are accredited within the EU, which in turn allows the current exodus.

EU healthcare is also facing two major issues: the growing number of patients who seek medical treatment abroad, even though it is covered by health insurance in their own country, and a lack of physicians. The Standing Committee of European Medics has said that the EU needs to change its policy concerning the health care system and the migration of the medical professionals, to avoid a bigger crisis.

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