The Kumanovo hospital, which is covering a region of a total of 200,000 residents, is facing a deficit of doctors. The relevant medical authorities have acknowledged this problem. There is almost no ward that has a sufficient number of doctors. Some doctors are to be retired, which will further complicate this problem. The hospital has recently obtained a new director, Snezhana Zaharieva, who is a long-term anesthesiologist. She explains that she is aware of this problem, which she describes as concerning. There are 75 medical specialists working at the Kumanovo hospital, but for it to function optimally, it needs about 50 more doctors. A greater number of doctors will unburden the shifts and provide appropriate healthcare services to the patients.
The problem with the deficit of doctors is due to a part of the medical personnel moving to the private healthcare over the past few years, while another part have departed to the western European countries. A Kumanovo medical specialist says that she is attending a crash course in German as she is hoping to find a job in Germany. Some of her younger colleagues are already there, so she hopes to receive their support.
“The initial problem that needs to be solved at the hospital is the deficit of doctors and cadre in general. Perhaps someone may not regard this as a priority, but the sophisticated machines and devices that we have at our disposal are to no avail if there are no professional personnel to use them. Good-quality healthcare services that are in compliance with the European norms and standards require certain kinds of personnel, doctors, nurses, medical attendants and cleaners according to the number of patients that we attend to,” Zaharieva says.
She has informed that general practitioners are also needed to cover the emergency room shifts. There is only one doctor at the physiotherapy ward and there are doctors that should retire soon because of their age, while it takes five years to become a medical specialist. The hospital urgently needs 20 medical specialists that it will seek these from the Health Ministry, but not in the runup to the elections.
“We have 660 employees at the Kumanovo hospital, but we still lack medical personnel. There are unemployed doctors who have sought employment before, but we are amid an election campaign. I hope that many candidates will come and express their desire to work at our hospital and I do hope that the Health Ministry will respond to our requests by issuing applications for the urgently required specialties,” Zaharieva says.
Although doctors are interested in specialties, they usually specialize in the same areas. For example, most doctors are interested in specializing in internal medicine, surgery and gynecology. Over the past few years, no one has been interested in specializing in anesthesiology, although this branch is highly esteemed in Europe, or in infectious diseases, which is quite a busy department involving shifts and a greater number of patients. A minimum of four medical specialists are needed at this ward given the age of the doctors currently working there.
The hospital has an agreement with about a dozen doctors from the Skopje clinics who come to help, but, despite this, this figure is insufficient when it comes to meeting the needs of the patients in the northeastern region. The hospital managerial team has met the health minister and has underlined this problem, while the ministry is also aware of the actual need of more doctors.
“Specialties were granted before, but a specialties plan needs to be made first for each medical institution separately,” Zaharieva adds.
The hospital also needs medical personnel with secondary education and a minimum of 50 nurses as soon as possible because the experienced nurses will have to provide a training for them. Additional education, rather than only medical education, is needed for certain areas and certain wards that use special devices. Some of the nurses will receive an additional professional training at the Skopje clinics.
“The better our staff the better our healthcare services. We will succeed in keeping the professional cadre in the hospital with a proper impetus,” Zaharieva adds.
The hospital officials hope that the relevant authorities will take notice of their requests. Deputy Health Minister Goce Chakarovski recently said in Kumanovo that, after the local elections, this problem would be solved by issuing a job advertisement and employing unemployed doctors.
“The Health Ministry is working on this problem. The cadre problem is not only a problem in Kumanovo, but all over Macedonia. Except for Skopje, all the other towns are facing a shortage of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. I think that there are about 400 unemployed doctors in Macedonia and that they will also find their place. However, you need to bear in mind that it is not that easy to become a specialist because specialized education lasts four-five years, while many of our young doctors have gone abroad. We have to stop this brain drain by first employing the young doctors and then enabling them so specialize, thereby encouraging them to stay in Macedonia rather than leave abroad,” Chakarovski said.
The problem of the shortage of doctors has persisted over the past 15 years, while its solution will imply better, faster and more efficient services to the patients of the northeastern region that seek medical assistance at the Kumanovo hospital.