Photograph: Photo by Ilmicrofono Oggiono, used under CC BY

The Croatian Medical Chamber (HLK) has called on the government to immediately embark on resolving the issue of doctors emigrating from Croatia and to define concrete measures to improve their status.

According to data presented by the Chamber, over the past four years the number of specialist doctors in the hospital system has dropped by almost 15%. There were 7,007 doctors in 2011 and their number had dropped to 6,019 on 1 April 2015. That is 988 fewer doctors in four years, HLK underscored in a statement.

In the past two years, more than a thousand doctors have requested the necessary documents to emigrate. "Young doctors are leaving, capable doctors, confident of their knowledge and abilities and who are prepared for dedicated and hard work." the head of the HLK, Trpimir Goluza warned.

This data, the Chamber said, clearly indicate that current working conditions and the social status of doctors is inappropriate, unsatisfactory and discouraging. If this negative trend is not stopped soon, the entire system of providing medical care could collapse.

"We expect this government to adopt an action plan as soon as possible with concrete measures to keep doctors in Croatia," Goluza said.

Croatia's health system is lacking about 2,500 hospital specialists to be on par to the average number of doctors per 1,000 residents in the European Union, where there is nevertheless still need for additional medical personnel.

The Chamber believes that the solution to this problem could be achieved through some concrete moves such as a branch collective agreement for doctors in negotiations, better work organisation, allowing supplementary work for doctors and to adopt European criteria defining norms for providing medical services.

The Chamber proposes better housing loans for young doctors, tax reliefs for doctors to relocate to less attractive communities, systematic provision for further education and a more just system of promotions and simplifying procedures to recognise foreign professional qualifications.

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