Efforts to stem the brain drain from Czech hospitals are proving harder than expected. The number of doctors who quit their jobs in search of higher salaries and better work opportunities abroad in 2011 is the highest in the country’s modern history.
“Too little, too late” is how many doctors see the efforts of the health ministry to finally give them their due. Even with the 20 percent salary hike that the ministry can ill-afford to give at a time of steep cuts in government spending, the salary of a young doctor at the outset of his career is an average 22 000 crowns – 2,000 crowns less than the country’s national average and four times less than he would get in neighbouring Germany or Austria. Martin Vetelsky said there was never any question about where he would start work. On graduating he turned down all offers from Czech hospitals and arranged to work in a German hospital located in Weiden just 20 kilometers from the Czech border. He has never regretted the decision.
“Of course the money was a big motivating factor but so was the fact that this hospital offers better opportunities for post graduate studies. And I really wanted to improve my language skills.“
“I was very impressed by the interpersonal relations here both among the staff and in relation to patients. The patient-doctor relationship is on an excellent level and that is very pleasing and helpful.”
In the course of 2011 close to 180 graduates and over 500 highly qualified specialists took work abroad –mostly in German and Austrian hospitals –the highest number in the country’s modern history. In Bavaria for instance graduates just starting their career make what the best Czech physicians and surgeons make at home. In 2011 a fifth of all new graduates never even bothered to test the waters in Czech hospitals. The dean of the medical faculty of Charles University Tomas Zima says this is a huge loss for the health sector.
The loss of some of the country’s most promising physicians is not likely to change anytime soon. According to a deal between the government and trade unions another hike in doctors’ salaries next year should see the average wage of an experienced doctor climb to 70 thousand crowns a month. Even then though, he or she will be making less that a graduate fresh out of school in neighbouring Germany.