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News 26 Jan 16

Serbia Suffers Brain Drain as Medics Go West

The number of health professionals in Serbia has been constantly decreasing due to the lack of career perspectives which has been driving young medical workers to leave the country.

Sasa Dragojlo
Intensive care unit at a Belgrade hospital | Photo by: Flickr/rudlavibizon

“Literally all of my colleagues are looking for a way to leave the country,” 25-year-old Ognjen Petrovic, a pharmacist from Obrenovac, told BIRN.

“There is no future here for health professionals in Serbia. It is almost impossible to find a decent job and if you find one… well, the wage is minimal,” Petrovic said.

He explained that he will probably leave for Canada seeking greater opportunities for professional development.

Serbia is facing a long-term shortage of health professionals, as doctors and nurses leave the country in pursuit of better prospects.

The Serbian government has not taken any significant measures to stop the negative trend, critics argue.

Serbian Finance Minister Dusan Vujevic caused outrage among healthcare unions on Sunday by telling medical workers to “find another country if they are not satisfied with this one”.

Vujevic and union representatives argued over planned salary cuts in the public sector which would increase the financial problems of healthcare workers.

Zoran Savic, the president of Trade Union of Workers in the Healthcare Sector, told BIRN that several consecutive Serbian governments have ignored the brain drain problem, putting the country’s healthcare in danger.

“In the next couple of years, we will not have people who are taking care of our health. On average, Serbia has fewer medical workers than most European countries,” Savic said.

In Serbia there are around 300 medical workers per 100,000 people, while the European average is around 320 per 100,000, according to Savic.

The average salary for doctors in Serbia is around 450 euro and for specialists around 600 euro.

“Why would anyone stay here if he can make ten times more money abroad?” Savic asked.

According to the Union of Doctors and Pharmacists of Serbia, the country lacks around 13,000 medical workers in various areas, but at the same time, there are around 13,000 redundant public sector employees.

Serbia mostly lacks pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists and pathologists, the Union of Doctors and Pharmacists has said.

“We need to change the educational system so that we can educate only the staff that we need,” Savic said.

The Serbian Medical Chamber says that every year it receives more and more requests for a ‘certificate of good reputation’, which is necessary for working abroad.

About 300 certificates were issued in 2012. In 2013, the number rose to 435 and in 2014 it more than doubled to 927. Last year, the number reached 1,000.

“Young people just want to do what they have been educated for and live decently. If that is not the case, then we are ‘out’,” Petrovic said.

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