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The number of doctors leaving Romania for better jobs abroad is continuing to rise, further undermining the already dilapidated public health system.
Around 1,605 Romanian doctors headed abroad in 2012 so far in search of more money and better careers, the Colegiul Medicilor, a professional organisation for doctors, said on Thursday.
That number, which represents around 4 per cent of the number of doctors in Romania, was established on the basis of certificates issued for good medical practice, which are required for working abroad, Vasile Astarastoaie, president of the organisation, said.
"Low salaries and poor conditions in which doctors work have prompted a considerable number to leave the country,” Astarastoaie noted.
In recent years, the number of doctors leaving Romania has been steadily increasing. Around 2,000 doctors sought to leave last year, while their number was some 1,500 in 2010.
The brain drain is particularly acute in the highest ranks. Most of those leaving were anesthesiologists and surgeons, followed by urologists, orthopedists and pediatricians. The favourite destination was Western Europe, usually France, Germany and the UK.
Romania now has a shortage of doctors. There are only around 1.95 per 1,000 people, compared to an EU average of 3.18.
The country has been struggling to reform its public health sector, which has fallen into growing problems as a result of years of underinvestment. Hospitals are understaffed and are short of specialists and modern equipment.
Low pay in the health sector and the government’s apparent unwillingness to carry out changes have encouraged the exodus of doctors and nurses.
The average salary of a junior doctor in Romania is around €300 a month. A similarly qualified doctor working in Britain, for example, can expect to earn many times that figure.
Polls show that over 90 per cent of Romanians are unhappy with the services provided by the public health system.
Many blame problems in the system on inefficient management, while 42 per cent believe that insufficient financing is to blame.
On the other hand, most people do not welcome the government’s drive to privatise the healthcare system.
Romania spends less on healthcare as a percentage of the budget than any other country in the European Union. Last year, Bucharest spent only around 4.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, almost half the EU average.
By contrast, Britain spent only 6.9 per cent, and France spent 9.4 per cent of its GDP on health, followed closely by Norway and Canada, according to a recent OECD report.
Unsurprisingly, Romania's healthcare system is considered one of the worst in Europe. In 2010 it ranked last among 33 countries, according to the European Healthcare Consumer Index.
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