Latvian doctors oppose Health Ministry's criticism of prolonged residencies

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The Latvian Junior Doctors Association and the Latvian Medical Association disagree with the State Audit Office's view that the young doctor residencies are excessively long in Latvia.

One of the conclusions the State Audit Office came to in its audit of the availability of human resources in the healthcare sector was that the length of residency studies in many medical specialties exceeds the minimum defined in the Professional Qualifications Directive. In Lithuania and Estonia, on the other hand, most of the residency studies meet these minimums.

In a discussion on Latvian Radio, the member of the board of the State Audit Office Inga Vārava noted: “We have 15 specialties wherein young doctors spend a year longer in the residency program than the directive requirements. We're not saying that it's wrong. But if we compare the length of the program, the content, and the theoretical and practical training, then we see that it doesn't differ significantly from Lithuania and Estonia. That's why we are asking the ministry to assess whether this difference is really justified.””

Kristīne Kļaviņa, head of the Human Resources Development Department of the Ministry of Health, said that for certain medical programs, such as face and jaw surgery,the duration residencies has been reduced. “There's been a lot of talk about child psychiatry. It's running its first residency program this year, and its duration is reduced. And we are seeing a lot more applicants,” said Kļaviņa. 

Juris Jansons, a member of the board of the Latvian Junior Doctors Association, objected to the view that the residency programs are too long. In addition, Lithuania and Estonia are being criticized in Europe for their relatively short residencies. 

“This may not solve the lack of human resources. We have to think more about how to integrate the young people who are going through this process into more responsible positions. How do we get the 3rdyear medical students into the hospital,” said Jansons.

Janons also urged the provision of residencies for all up-coming doctors.

The President of the Latvian Medical Association Ilze Aizsilniece also disagreed with the charge of Latvian residencies being excessively long. She emphasised that the term mentioned in the European directive is the minimum: “It just can't be less than that.” 

Moreover, compared to the residencies in Finland, Sweden, and Germany, the Latvian ones are substantially shorter, remarked Aizsilniece.

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