Why is there a shortage of doctors in Spain?

by Lorraine Williamson
shortage of doctors

Spain has been struggling with a doctor shortage and long waiting lists for several years. For some surgeries, the waiting lists are longer than a year. Public healthcare needs nearly 6,000 doctors to alleviate the healthcare burden, with general practitioners being particularly hard to find.

In recent years, the shortage of doctors in primary care and the bureaucratic hassle in Spain have frequently sparked demonstrations. There appears to be a partial solution to the problem: employing immigrants. Many foreigners with university degrees can help alleviate the pressure in healthcare. However, bureaucratic obstacles are so significant that recognising foreign diplomas often takes years.

Many medical professionals work below their qualification level

According to an analysis by the Spanish newspaper El País in collaboration with Lighthouse Reports, around 65% of immigrants who cannot get their diplomas recognised work in jobs for which they are overqualified. This represents a huge loss of talent. Of those who have had their diplomas recognised, half end up in jobs below their qualification level.

While the solution to the doctor shortage seems obvious, the diploma recognition system is difficult. Professional associations defend the need for a thorough assessment of medical diplomas and knowledge. For doctors, not only the medical degree must be recognised but also their specialisations. This requires justifiable, thorough testing. However, the evaluation process can take several years.

Shortage of doctors despite having skilled foreign doctors

Meanwhile, hospitals are doing everything they can to retain good staff. The healthcare burden is high in many hospitals, and they are desperate for qualified personnel. And such personnel exist, notably from Central and South America. These are doctors who speak Spanish and are trained but are not easily allowed to work as doctors in Spain.

Given the lengthy bureaucratic process, some prefer to undergo medical training again in Spain. This is an expensive and time-consuming way to avoid bureaucratic drama. However, this route is not feasible for everyone. Despite the abundance of jobs, medical talent often shifts to other positions due to all the red tape.

Also read: Migrants needed to offset negative population growth

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