A record number of family doctor positions are empty in Hungary
According to Magyar Nemzet, there is a constant rise in the number of empty family doctor positions in the country. These empty positions are frequent mostly in the boonies of Hungary, where a family doctor is responsible for treating several smaller communities.
The Hungarian medical attendance is in a critical situation, as the number of permanently empty (the position has been unfilled for at least 6 months) family doctor practices is constantly rising. This is a record compared to previous years. At the moment, there are 317 sectors without a physician, 65 of them being podiatric sectors. Magyar Nemzet’s analysis of the Hungarian National Healthcare Services Center’s data shows that in July 2015 there were 231 unfilled sectors, in January 2016, 238, and in December last year, 281. Despite the efforts of authorities, the situation has worsened: in March 2017 there were 287 unfilled positions, and 30 further became empty in the following five months. This is mostly present in the boonies. On top of this, most in these regions, family doctors are responsible for more small communities.
The latest additions to the list of empty sectors are Sellye (Baranya county), Kunszentmiklós and Pirtó (both from Bács-Kiskun county). However, there are townships in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok counties where practices are unfilled since 2004. The residents of Györgytarló, Putnok, Tiszabő and Mezőhék have been waiting for a permanent family doctor for 13 years now.
Magyar Nemzet reports that Kamill Selmeczi, the president of the Hungarian National Healthcare Services Center, told them a year ago that two-third of the Hungarian family doctors should either be retired or are about to retire in five years. This fact puts the 2200 situation of practices into a worrisome light. The president believes that raising the wages of family doctors higher than those doctors’ working at hospitals would be a solution to this problem. Otherwise, young physicians will not be motivated enough. If we look at the current numbers, his predictions are coming true.
The government is willing to offer 10 million forints (approx. 3m EUR) worth of settling or practice buying aid per practice to fill the permanently unfilled positions. However, there were not enough applicant for the 750m forints (approx. 2.5 billion EUR) available for this purpose to be used nor in 2015 or in 2016. This year, applicants can get the double of the previous sum. Let’s say the winner takes on a practice that has been unfilled for at least 12 months, then they will get 12m Ft instead of 6m. If a practice has been unfilled for 36 months, they get 16m, if for 60 months, then 20m. In return, the given doctor has to stay in the position for at least 6 years.
The available sum this year is 1.25 billion forints (4 bill. EUR), but it doubtful that it will be used to the fullest this year either. Magyar Nemzet found out in May, that altogether eleven doctors (family doctors or dentists) won the support of the government. Only 11 practices could have been filled out of the hundreds of empty positions. The paper tried to look into the current situation, but the site that published the list regarding these data was not functioning anymore.
On top of the settling and practice buying support, from June 1, 2017, family doctors get 390 thousand forints (1.2 thousand EUR) instead of the previous 260 thousand forints (850 EUR) support each month for overhead expenses. Family doctors will receive this support for the rest of the year and next year as well, but what will happen afterward, is not known yet.