Shortage of family doctors prevails in Latvia

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Nearly 30% of general practitioners or family doctors working in Latvia are in pre-retirement or retirement age, so there are shortages of specialists in the industry, particularly in remote parishes, Latvian Television reported July 2.

According to the National Health Service (NVD), of the 1263 family doctors currently working in Latvia, 27% are of pre-retirement or retirement age. And, according to data from the Service's survey, some plan to end their active career.

The Ministry of Health (VM) said that family doctors are a priority for the industry and a higher number of specialists has been in active preparation for five years. For two years, family doctors have had access to funding from European Union funds in regions outside Riga for both the establishment of practices and the transfer of compensations. However, the shortage in remote parishes remains.

In Valka municipality, a family doctor has been sought since May. Both universities and neighbouring civil parish practices have been addressed. So far, without results. The municipality offers a variety of bonuses to attract specialists.

“First of all, we will resolve, if necessary, the residency issue. We've already arranged the workspace in Ērģeme. We have decent rooms in Kārķi, certainly, we are prepared to invest money and arrange the rooms even better,” said Pēteris Pētersons, director of Valka municipality Ērģeme and Kārķi parishes.

Regional hospitals are also experiencing the problem of lacking medical professionals. This is why a so-called doctors' house was constructed in the building of Ogre's former clinic, providing specialists with apartments.

“The main condition is that you have to work in the main job at our hospital and take on at least one full-time load. We are also prepared to pay subsistence fees and pay the minimum wage in scholarships for residents who are not likely to be paid by state-paid groups,” said Dainis Širovs, Chairman of the Ogre District Hospital Board.

As recently as 2019, the State Auditor, following the VM audit, indicated that there are significant inequalities in the sector in the placement of medical practitioners in the regions. But the aim of the Ministry set more than a decade ago – to provide specialists in an appropriate number and qualifications throughout Latvia – has not been achieved.

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