The Independent Online: As the second wave of the Coronavirus approaches, it is time to fix health care imbalances between old and new Europe

The newspaper “The Independent Online” published an article by MEP Clotilde Armand, entitled “With the approaching second wave of the Coronavirus, it is time to fix health care imbalances between old and new Europe”.

There is no doubt that the brain drain of medical professionals from Central and Eastern Europe has brought benefits to source countries, in terms of transfers and opportunities for ambitious young people to gain experience abroad. 

But it left major gaps in health coverage in some of the poorest member states of the European Union.

“The shortage of trained medical personnel in the two European regions is getting more severe”. 

Romania lost 50% of its doctors between 2009 and 2015. 

Slovakia has lost more than 25% of its doctors since 2004, a trend that continues.

Armand points out that “more than 10% of Romanian communities do not have doctors, and Romania cannot provide cancer treatment for children under the age of seven due to lack of staff.

Instead, they are sent to another place for treatment – mostly to Austria – at a great cost for the parents. 

Bulgaria currently has less than half of the doctors it needs – and since 90% of medical students plan to look for work abroad, this situation appears to be deteriorating.

Even in Poland, a relatively wealthy country with an economic success story over the past three decades, 60% of medical students plan to work abroad. 

Even in normal times, many Central and Eastern European countries struggle to meet patients’ needs.

The deputy noted that Central and Eastern European countries “continue to train young medical professionals at great cost to the coffers of the cash-strapped state”.

The author points out that training a doctor costs an average of 100,000 euros.

If this doctor left for another place soon after graduation. 

Armand wonders: “What are the benefits for the country that invested in it?”

Armand proposes to establish a compensation fund for medical work in which countries that employ foreign doctors pay to help support health systems in source countries.

“Initially, this would be a voluntary scheme,” she explains. 

The money raised will help fund the education of doctors and nurses in the countries of origin, and offset the medical costs of patients in these places that require medical treatment in countries of destination.

“In addition to providing short-term alleviation of staff shortages in countries, it could help create a long-term equilibrium between Europe’s healthcare systems, and bridge the gap between old and new Europe,” she says.