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Doctor exodus means trouble ahead

  • 2013-05-29
  • From wire reports

HOUSE CALL: Estonia is facing a critical shortage of medical staff.

TALLINN - Aparticularly bleak scenario heralds a fall of the number of doctors in Estonia, dropping from 4,500 to 2,500 in 20 years and currently one in seven doctors working in Estonia is of retirement age while an increasing number of medical school graduates leave Estonia after graduation, reports Postimees.
Tartu University scientists Raul-Allan Kiivet, Helle Visk and Toomas Asser write in their study on the dynamics of the number of doctors and nurses working in Estonia in 2032, that only under a utopian scenario, that is, if all the 120 graduates of doctor studies started working in Estonia immediately, and no young doctors left to go abroad, would the number of doctors not fall so drastically.

The reality is, however, that an average of 15 percent of these new doctors won’t start working in Estonia. For example, in 2011, out of the 107 doctors who graduated, just 66 started working in Estonia. 725 young doctors out of the 981 who had graduated from the department of medicine in 2002-2011 worked in Estonia in April 2012, meaning a loss of over 250 new doctors.

The truth is that not all young doctors find work in Estonia. Looking at what is needed, 4,500 doctors are sufficient for Estonia, representing three doctors per 1,000 people, which is Europe’s average.
However, there are specialties where the shortage of doctors is higher than in other places. For example, a year ago, 54 family doctors left to work in Finland and 141 had taken a certificate from the Health Board to work abroad, meaning that some of them work part-time in Estonia, and part-time in Finland.

The authors of the study say that the acceptance of medical students to university has to be increased by a quarter in order to preserve the number of doctors at the current level, and the exodus of doctors from Estonia should be halved.