EACH year, 450 students graduate from Slovakia's three medical schools, but recent data shows many are preferring to find work abroad.
According to the Slovak Medical Chamber, more than 600 young physicians have found employment abroad in recent years. The Health Ministry cautions that number only seems high because it includes those who already lived abroad when Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, the daily SME wrote.
The foreign demand is strongest for dentists, anaesthetists and psychiatrists. So far, hospitals and private clinics have not reported a shortage, but warn the situation could worsen.
Mária Voleková, the Deputy Director of the Banská Bystrica Teaching Hospital, told the daily SME that it has enough physicians, but admitted financial concerns hinder the hiring of young physicians. Instead, the hospitals retain older physicians approaching retirement.
The most critical situation is among general practitioners, who number just 2,000, and are older on average. Ladislav Pásztor, head of the Private Physicians' Association, thinks a crisis might eventually occur because not enough students are interested in the specialisation, and even some of those who are are leaving for better jobs abroad.
Slovak dentists are also following the trend. Other than better salaries, the dentists believe societies abroad show greater respect and offer better opportunities to develop their skills.
Slovak dentists are mostly heading to Great Britain, Ireland and the Czech Republic, as those EU countries accept their qualifications. Canada and the USA require foreign doctors to pass difficult and expensive examinations.
Ján Vančo, spokesman for the Chamber of Dentists, added that the shortage of dentists is on the agenda for their negotiations with representatives from universities.
"The age structure is unfavourable. Many dentists are from the post-war generations that are gradually leaving for retirement and the natural replenishment isn't filling the demand," he said.
Older physicians usually do not leave for abroad, as they are only rarely offered something adequate to their experience. Foreign demand is strong mainly for young physicians.
According to Pásztor, physicians so far do not feel a shortage of nurses in their offices because the Sk8,000 (€214) to Sk10,000 salary is still considered to be a good income in some regions.
Compiled by Spectator staff