Small town Germany desperately seeking doctors

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Sabine Devins - [email protected]
Small town Germany desperately seeking doctors
Photo: DPA

Rural Germany is on the brink on a crisis: By 2020, around 50,000 registered doctors are expected to retire, but one authority says there is still time to do something about it.


According to the Federal Doctors Association (KBV), the average age of registered doctors in Germany is 50, and around a third are over 60. 
"It's just a matter of time before they have to give up their practises," spokesperson Roland Stahl told The Local on Tuesday. "And there is no one there to take over." 
Stahl said it's a symptom of the growing trend of urbanization that makes rural doctor's offices non-viable workplace options for young GPs.
"With the new generation of doctors, they have choice in where they work, but also have to consider their life outside of work.
"Doctors have to look at the cities and towns and consider if their partner can get a job there, whether there are daycare services or schools for children, and what other amenities there are," he said.
Karl Lauterbach, health spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) told Die Welt that politicians need to step up to make being a GP a more attractive job. 
"We have to change salaries so that being a general practitioner becomes a more lucrative option," he said. "There should also be bureaucratic relief. Part-time work options should also be improved." 
But Stahl says it won't be enough to organize better care for rural residents.
"Doctors today have a lot of options as to what they can do. There are enough jobs to allow them to have their choice."  
Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said that the job had to be made more attractive, and not just financially. 
"To make being a GP an attractive career choice for young doctors, there need to be good working conditions as well as enough university and training opportunities," the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician said. 
Many state doctor associations provide money and support to any GP willing to take over or open a new office in a rural area. The Doctors Association of Saxony (KVSachsen) recently celebrated a decade of its program to promote being a GP in rural areas. However, it reports that there are still more than 100 jobs that remain unfilled in several rural regions. 
Around 12,000 students graduate annually from medical programmes in Germany. Students who wish to study medicine have to have top marks in school, and still often have to wait for a spot at a university to begin their education. 
According to the Foundation for University Admissions, one fifth of students who wish to study medicine have to wait a year or more to get a spot, but Stahl says more spots aren't the answer. 
"Just because a student gets top marks, it doesn't mean they are going to make a good doctor. Someone who receives the second best marks could just as easily be great with patients, but simply has no chance to even prove themselves," he said. 
Stahl noted that this was not a crisis that will happen from one day to the next, but one that is slowly creeping up on Germany. 
"That means there is still time to do something about it."



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