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Flight of health workers to European neighbors puts a sick nation in jeopardy

Many in the sector looking elsewhere for better opportunities

Eskilstuna, a quaint Swedish city some 120 kilometers from the capital Stockholm, is home to Volvo's main headquarters and was the place were Abba was born. Soon it will be home to Jorge Sotoca and Mercedes López - he is a pediatrician and she works as an ophthalmologist.

In February, they will begin new jobs at the municipal hospital that serves 400,000 residents. Sotoca has already signed an indefinite contract, and has a nursery school selected for their one-year-old daughter.

There are good reasons why Sotoca and López are going to Sweden: "Job instability, deteriorating conditions, uncertainty of the things to come, scarce possibilities for professional growth, and the opportunity to give our daughter a better future," summarizes the 32-year-old husband.

Sotoca is one of a growing group of doctors and nurses who are fleeing Spain for more fertile job markets abroad. During the first half of this year, the Organization of Medical Associations (OMC), which groups all the professional health associations, issued 948 eligibility certificates, the document that is needed for health professionals to work in other European Union nations.

And judging by the figures so far, it seems that there will be more health workers on the move. In 2011, the OMC issued 1,435 certificates and in the previous year, 1,248 were handed out.

"Medical students who completed their residencies in May have found they have two options: join the lists of unemployed or leave," said Tomás Toranzo from the State Confederation of Medical Unions (Cesm).

A fuller version of this story will be posted in the coming days.

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