The shortage of doctors and nurses is being felt more in Albania, during the COVID-19 pandemic. With hundreds of patients hospitalised, the demand for qualified medical staff has increased significantly.
The health sector is one of those that is most impacted by emigration. According to data analysed by Exit, Albania as 1.2 doctors per 1000 inhabitants. It ranks last in the region and in Europe in terms of the doctor-to-patient ratio.
According to data from the Germany Embassy, between 2013 and 2017, 762 doctors and 2064 nurses left the country. In 2018, 18% of foreign doctors in Germany were Albanian- the largest group overall. During 2019, the number of Albanian doctors increased by around 21% when compared to the previous year.
The departure of educated medical staff is a huge loss of investment for the Albanian state. The government invests a lot of money in the education of doctors and nurses who then leave for western countries.
Prime Minister Edi Rama, when faced with the mass exodus said he will increase the salary of medical staff from January 2021. Opposition leader Lulzim Basha has also promised to increase salaries if he is elected.
The salary of Albanian medical staff and those from other Balkan countries are around one-third of the EU average.
The WHO had also noted that Albania has one of the lowest rates of doctors-to-patients globally. Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu blamed this on the Democratic Party, stating that for four years. after 2013 (when the Socialist Party took power), the country could not produce specialist doctors. She said that since 2018, there are 309 more doctors in the system and that over 600 doctors and 2400 nurses have been employed.
Rama said that during 2018-2019, 400 new doctors were hired and 2200 nurses. He said there were 1500 nurses on the waiting list for work.
In Febuary, a medical student challenged Rama during his speech at a graduation ceremony, asking him whether he was aware of the fact that. the only people graduating were the only ones who could afford the high fees of public education.
Rama denied this was true and told the student to get medicated. He then said that doctors and nurses were not leaving the country en masse.