MORE than 600 healthcare staff left Slovakia to work abroad between May and 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 confirmations 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 the most. Nurses are departing primarily for 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.
The President of the Chamber of Nurses, Mária Levyová, is even talking about the possible collapse of some Bratislava hospitals. She said it is no longer unusual for one nurse to be looking after 30 patients. In Western Europe, one nurse typically cares for two to six patients.
Better salaries and career growth abroad are the main reasons behind the exodus of healthcare staff. The gross monthly salary for a nurse in Slovakia is about Sk14,000 (€373) while physicians typically earn Sk33,000 (€880) including emergency pay. In Germany a physician can earn up to €5,000 a month.
Apart from the salary, the lack of nurses is also caused by changes 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 the past two and half years.
- Martina Jurinová