Health care: Doctors from abroad save the operations of many German hospitals

The ringing of his cell phone calls Goran Jordanoski to the emergency room.

Health care: Doctors from abroad save the operations of many German hospitals

The ringing of his cell phone calls Goran Jordanoski to the emergency room. A patient needs to be cared for in the shock room. The 43-year-old doctor from North Macedonia heads the central emergency room at the Sondershausen Hospital in Thuringia. The internist and emergency medicine specialist is one of 64,000 foreign doctors who work in German hospitals, medical practices or research institutions - out of around 421,000 working doctors in total. The migrants with the stethoscope have long been indispensable, and not just for the house in Sondershausen, which belongs to the private clinic operator KMG with a dozen locations in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

“Without doctors from abroad, we cannot maintain our healthcare system at the current standard,” says the Vice President of the German Medical Association, Ellen Lundershausen. However, they are also missing in their home countries, she admits. The German Hospital Association (DKG) estimates that clinics in eastern Germany in particular need foreign doctors. “Without the migration of medical professionals, local care offerings would be reduced,” says deputy CEO Henriette Neumeyer.

200 medical organizations and associations recently highlighted the importance of immigrants to the healthcare system. “Medical and nursing care in Germany cannot and will not do without their contribution,” says a statement for democracy and pluralism published in mid-March.

According to figures from the state medical associations, in Thuringia and Brandenburg alone a quarter of hospital doctors come from abroad, and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania it is a fifth. According to the German Medical Association (BÄK), 80 percent of foreign doctors work in clinics nationwide, "disproportionately often" in smaller hospitals and outside larger cities. In Sondershausen, the KMG clinic with specialist departments for internal medicine, general and trauma surgery, gynecology/obstetrics, geriatrics (geriatric medicine) and emergency room serves the rural Kyffhäuser district; 6,000 inpatients and 15,000 outpatients are treated there every year. Almost half of the doctors - 30 out of 63 - have a non-German passport, and in the entire KMG group it is more than 25 percent.

The district town of Sondershausen, with a population of 21,000 and located an hour's drive from the Thuringian state capital Erfurt, was a center of potash mining until reunification. Today it is struggling with aging and population decline. “We notice that young doctors trained in Germany often live in metropolitan areas and do not want to have to travel long distances to work,” says clinic managing director Mike Schuffenhauer.

For DKG expert Neumeyer, this has a lot to do with a general “trend of urbanization”. BÄK Vice President Lundershausen also points out that medical graduates, especially prospective specialists, often seek proximity to where they study in their careers. "If you studied in Hamburg, you tend to stay in Hamburg." From their point of view, Germany has not trained enough doctors for years.

In addition, the work expectations of today's generation of doctors differ from those of previous generations. They paid much more attention to a good work-life balance and wanted to spend more time with their families than previous generations of doctors, explains Neumeyer. The fact that the need is increasing despite the continually increasing number of doctors is therefore not a contradiction. "The number of people is increasing, but their working hours are not increasing to the same extent."

For foreign doctors, Germany is attractive as a place to work, says Neumeyer. "It is known that the practical training for young doctors at German hospitals is very good," confirms Goran Jordanoski. He was attracted to Germany in 2011 by the further training opportunities; in his home country of North Macedonia he had poor job opportunities at the time and would have had to pay for the specialist training himself. In Sondershausen he successfully completed specialist training in internal medicine and emergency medicine and is senior physician and medical director of the emergency room.

According to the DKG, foreign doctors go through a demanding and often lengthy process with specialist language and knowledge tests until their medical qualifications are recognized in Germany. “You won’t just be waved through,” clarifies Neumeyer.

After 13 years, Jordanowski feels firmly rooted in the region. "I feel at home, I've met a lot of people, the patients are friendly. I like it here." He never experienced any problems because of his origins. He doesn't want to move to another place or another hospital. This is good news for clinic boss Schuffenhauer: “We are very happy about that.”