Hospital wards are closing in Poland after doctors are increasingly moving abroad and to the private sector. The country has long struggled with underfunded public health, and the situation has been exacerbated by a covid pandemic.
Poland also faces a shortage of new doctors to replace the old generation. From the first of June to the fourteenth of July, fifteen Polish cities closed or restricted the operation of one oncology hospital and another nineteen hospital wards, including neurological, surgical, gynecological and pediatric, doctor Jakub Kosikowski pointed out on Twitter.
Lack of staff
Lack of staff is often cited as an official reason. “I wonder what the patients say, “adds Kosikowski. The Patients’ Rights Ombudsman has not yet met with an increased number of complaints about lack of care by Polish citizens.
According to the Politico portal, Poland is starting to feel a growing shortage of doctors. Poland already lacks 20,000 to 50,000 doctors. And the outlook for the future is not optimistic, an unusually large number of health professionals admit that they want to end the service or emigrate abroad.
A study by the University of Economics in Krakow last year found that almost 30 percent of doctors want to reduce or completely change their work after the end of the covid crisis.
Nine percent plan to emigrate and six percent are thinking of quitting the profession altogether. The chairman of the Polish Medical Chamber, Andrzej Matyja, warned in April that Poland was facing a “disaster”.
“Never in history has there been such a number in a quarter, “commented the report of the chamber, according to which two hundred doctors were looking for work abroad during the first quarter of 2021.
“The health care system is now facing an extreme shortage of staff, “says the rheumatologist and head of the local health departments of the city of Bydgoszcz Bartosz Fialek.
“Doctors are leaving to work in the private sector in other EU countries“.
A long-term problem
This exodus is largely the result of the underfunding of the Polish healthcare system. The government spends only 5.3 percent of GDP on public health, one of the lowest shares in the Union.
The government has approved a slight increase in salaries for doctors. The minimum salary for doctors specializing in the second degree has risen to PLN 6,769 since July, ie only by PLN 19 (EUR 106). Matyja called the increase “embarrassing”.
Poland also struggles with the generation gap. There are not enough new medics to completely replace aging doctors. In addition, some disciplines, such as neurology, are not very attractive to young medical graduates, which is reflected in the fact that there is no one to serve these departments.
Some hospital wards also closed due to staff having to care for coronavirus-infected patients. At the hospital in Rybnik, they closed the gynecology and obstetrics, neonatology and rehabilitation departments for six months at the beginning of July, which they transformed into a department for patients with covid-19.
“We faced a shortage of staff and this situation unfortunately accompanies us to this day“A hospital spokesman said. Some hospitals have to dismiss doctors because they do not have to pay them. At Rybnik Hospital, out of 79 specialists who had to decide between dismissing or accepting new working conditions, nineteen opted for the first option.
According to Kosikowski, there are too many hospitals and beds in Poland and the government should focus on reorganizing them in terms of transport accessibility and human and financial resources.
Fialek also emphasizes the need for reorganization. It proposes the construction of more outpatient clinics, where less serious cases could be dealt with and would free up space for hospitals for more urgent patients.