MORE than 600 healthcare staff left Slovakia for work abroad from May to October of this year according to data provided by the Slovak Health Ministry. The ministry has records on departing physicians and nurses because it issues confirmation of their education for them.
Health Ministry spokesperson Silvia Balázsiková admitted that the lack of nurses is more troubling than the shortage of physicians, with Bratislava feeling the shortage of nurses the most. Nurses are leaving primarily to neighbouring Austria, the Sme daily wrote.
The Austrian daily Der Standard recently reported that 16 percent of physicians and 21 percent of nurses in Austria now come from post-socialist countries.
President of the Chamber of Nurses Mária Levyová is even talking about the collapse of some Bratislava hospitals. She said it is no longer unusual if one nurse is looking after 30 patients. In Western Europe one nurse typically cares for 2 to 6 patients.
Better salaries and career growth abroad are the main reasons behind the healthcare staff exodus. The gross monthly salary for a nurse in Slovakia is about Sk14,000 (€373) while a physican typically earns Sk33,000 (€880) including emergency and extra shifts. In Germany a physician can earn up to €5,000 a month.
Apart from the salary, the lack of nurses is also caused by the change in the nursing education system. Secondary healthcare schools have been abolished and replaced by a bachelor’s degree system, meaning that the healthcare labour market has not seen newly graduated nurses for two and half years.