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The second wave and the absence of foreign medics

Reasons of failure of a temporary internship
Slovakia, like other EU countries, suffers from a shortage of health workers. Unfortunately, however, only under the pressure of the pandemic did changes begin to be introduced that could have partially solved this problem. Our attempt in the form of an amendment to the Health Workers Act, which has been in effect since the end of May, was not successful. Why? Here are the simple reasons.

  1. This only opens the possibility for doctors, but not for other foreign medical workers. Nurses, midwives, or dentists, for example, cannot use it. It is the nurses who are needed like air. Since 2016, there have been only 3 foreign nurses with advanced degrees in Slovakia.
  2. Uncertainty on the part of the employer, as internships can only be used until the crisis is over. Who needs an employee who can work for an unknown amount of time? And this leads us to the absurd situation where the employer and the employee hope that the crisis situation will last as long as possible. Even more absurd is the fact that we are talking about hospitals and doctors.
  3. Uncertainty on the part of physicians. The internship is an offer to get acquainted with the system, but only in a crisis situation and without prospects for the future. There is no connection with the exam system and the subsequent recognition of foreign medical education in Slovakia, or any other possible benefits on the exam.
  4. There is no possibility to come from the outside. We have closed borders, and foreigners, including doctors, have no possibility to apply for residence permits. In addition, there are no immigration mechanisms in place to give priority to foreign medical workers coming to Slovakia. On the contrary, I know of many cases where doctors have been denied entry to Slovakia, or where the process of granting a residence permit has been delayed (I know an anesthesiologist who has been waiting for a residence permit since March), which of course makes no logical sense.
  5. When the communication process does not work. In my opinion, such an important social issue as the possibility of using medical personnel from abroad to address staffing shortages during COVID-19 should have been communicated not only to the public, but also to other government agencies. For example, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior so that they would not conflate medical workers with other foreigners and prioritize their applications for residency, or to employment centers so that they would not needlessly look for bureaucratic inconsistencies in employers' job reports to reject applications, citing that we have rising unemployment. There is, of course, no growth in the health care sector.
  6. Disappointment. On March 15, the initiative "Unite and Help Slovakia!" was held in which 42 medical professionals from abroad signed up. They wanted to help Slovakia wholeheartedly and free of charge in the fight against COVID-19. Their offer was not accepted, although they were willing to help for free. The foreign doctors themselves were not interested in the internship, given the way it was prepared, offered, and delivered, although it could have been paid for.

Slovak Internship as a conglomeration of incompatible things

The Slovak internship is conceived as a conglomeration of two incompatible things: an opportunity to prepare for the exam, which is necessary for recognition of a medical license in the EU, and help during a pandemic, because we need doctors badly. And all this with an uncertain outcome for both parties and an unclear duration.

The only positive thing about the internship in the crisis situation, as it is accepted now, is that it can serve as a suitable basis on which we can build and continue to work in the future. We know that there is a shortage of medical workers in Slovakia, and despite the bad situation, it is still not easy to attract medical workers from third countries, as is the case for example in the Czech Republic, but also in Germany or Poland, the UK, and so on. We won't fill this deficit with our own resources (even if it were solved immediately, which it is not) before 10 years from now, when the new graduates come out of school. So now there is no other way but to try to bring back those who have left and to recruit medical workers from third countries.


Let's try to look at foreign doctors as educated people and colleagues who can help us at least partially solve the problem of the shortage of doctors in Slovakia. Let's not look at them as those who take away our work in Slovakia (who, a Slovak doctor who left for Germany?) and we won't automatically perceive them as inferior. In the end, let's think about what we will do if we get sick and the medical staff cannot find time for us, just because during the second wave the number of cases of COVID-19 in Slovakia is ever increasing, and the number of medical staff is limited?

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