Lithuania seeks fighting doctor brain-drain with mandatory local work period

In Lithuania, where hospitals in smaller towns struggle to attract young medical staff, legislators in the Seimas have proposed obliging medical students to work their first four years in Lithuania after ending state-subsidised residency, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT, Aistė Valiauskaitė and Vesta Tizenhauzienė report.
In north-eastern Lithuania, there operates the Kupiškis Hospital in a town of 7.9 thousand people «It is very hard, we have little to offer,» said Kupiškis Hospital chief Julius Panka. «Although salaries have gone up a little, but big cities are still offering better pay.»
It is not just Lithuania’s big cities that regional hospitals have to compete with – many medical students prefer to emigrate to Scandinavian countries or Germany right after graduating. To stop the medical brain-drain, the parliamentary Healthcare Committee has proposed that newly trained doctors be given mandatory appointments.
According to the proposal, medical students who finish government-funded residency programmes would have to stay and work in Lithuania for four years. This would also help alleviate healthcare access disparities between Lithuania’s big cities and regions, reasons MP Antanas Matulas. «The average age of medics in regions is very big and it’s a pity that, even though local authorities are offering apartments and additional funding, there are still no doctors,» Matulas, chairman of the Healthcare Committee, tells LRT TV. «People sometimes need to travel 100 kilometres to see a dermatologist or a cardiologist.»
Young doctors and medical students don’t think this is the right solution
«Instead of talking about [reasonable] workloads, [fighting] mobbing, working conditions and so on, we’re taking the easiest route – forcing people to work off [their education]. It’s not fair,» noted Karolis Kilčauskas, board chairman of the Young Doctors Association.
Kamilė Marcinkevičiūtė, chairwoman of the Residents Council at Vilnius University’s Faculty of Medicine, argued that the measure would only encourage more medical students to leave and look for residency programmes abroad. «It is important to note that only in Lithuania and Latvia are medical residents considered students, elsewhere they are workers and do not need to pay for residency programmes,» Marcinkevičiūtė explained.
The article originally appeared on LRT English: