Albanian government bids to stop young doctors, nurses emigrating
The government is preparing a scheme to prevent the emigration of young people, particularly doctors and nurses, through the means of home credit, wage increases, and requirements to practice locally for a set time.
The European Union hopeful has seen its population fall by over 1.4 million since the end of communism in 1991, with 700,000 leaving in the last decade and at least 32,000 – mainly youth – in 2022.
The mass exodus has hit the employment market hard, with significant staff shortages in hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, but also the healthcare sector. Over the last decade, at least 3,500 health professionals, including many doctors, have left Albania for Germany alone.
Prime Minister Edi Rama, on Wednesday, announced a new initiative to try to keep medical staff and other youth in the country, including favourable housing loan conditions and increased salaries, while inaugurating a new unit at the state hospital in Tirana.
“For all young couples, doctors, policemen, and soldiers, they will be subjects of the programme where the government will support the possibility of credit to buy a house with conditions completely different from those in the banking market,” he said.
“In this way, We strongly believe that in this way we will give another important motivation to young doctors,” he added.
Rama said that the migration of professionals is not just a phenomenon of Albania, adding that those who leave have a good reputation and rapidly integrate into European health services such as in Germany.
“But we cannot finance the German health service…We cannot accept that a medical student pays 1/16 of the cost of study with the government paying the rest…and then the student gets the diploma and goes to Germany or elsewhere,” he said.
While it is not possible to stop free movement or force people to stay, he said there are potential plans afoot which would see medical graduates have to remain in the country to work for a certain period of time.
“For this, of course, we will extend the discussion both with the rectorate and with the community in order to make the best and fairest policy possible,” he added.
With particular reference to doctors and nurses that leave the country, Rama said there would be a salary increase for specialist doctors to 50,000 lek a month (€470), with those who perform more interventions, consultations, and in general, more work, could be allocated more.
The funds will be allocated by the state budget while the rest will come from hospital autonomy.
In an interview with EURACTIV in December, Rama said he cannot stop people from leaving the country.
“I have never thought, and I still don’t think that it’s a good idea to believe and let alone communicate that the young people should absolutely stay here because I think they have the right to try, and they should make use of their freedom, and it’s absolutely in their hands,” Rama said.
He added that the important thing is to get young people to return as they bring with them a different mentality that can benefit the country.
“These people return with a different mentality, they come with some experience, and they open enterprises, they do things differently, and they make successes,” he said, adding it is also important to improve conditions at the local level.
Albania is set to head to the polls on 14 May to elect mayors and local representatives across the country.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)