Having two doctors and one nurse in the family here, the doctor both work in Bulgaria, but have outside work to supplement their income. The nurse has been working abroad over the last four years as the pay ti too low in Bulgaria. She can afford to have a year’s holiday on the earnings she made abroad and will return to work again soon but not in Bulgaria. You can see exactly why nurses flee abroad as their pay is just not good enough for most. Of course the quality of hospital service are suffering from this and other countries are benefiting of from Bulgarian exported expertise of course.
Bulgaria is the only country, excluding African nations, where nurses are outnumbered by doctors, with 1,831 fleeing it in 2008 alone, said Prof. Stanka Markova, chairwoman of the nurse association.
With a required ratio of 1:2, Bulgaria has 36,000 doctors and only 30,000 nurses. The trend has been driven by a raft of reasons for year but no government has taken serious action to curb it, Markova complained.
It was only in the recent days that the Health Ministry requested information about the matter. The association will send a letter outlining its demands and seek a meeting with minister Bozhidar Nanev.
The organisation warned that the staff shortage is spelling trouble for medical establishments and could result in closure of departments. For example, Saint Georgi University Hospital has 33 vacancies for nurses, another 15 nurses are needed in Plovdiv Hospital in the southern city. This is the situation in most of the major hospital across the country, too. Fifty medical staff call it quits at the hospital in Bourgas, on the southern Black Sea coast. The most gaping shortage could be observed in intensive care units and surgical departments, where workloads are heavy and salaries scanty.
The lack of enough personnel also affects the quality of medical services and raises the cost of treatment, Markova explained. Establishments with an insufficient number of nurses suffer higher mortality, she said.
Nurses give up their jobs at public hospital to go to private establishments, where they are better paid. This leaves university hospital with insufficient staff and this is where the majority of Bulgarians go to have treatment, Markova said. Many medical staff are looking for job abroad as vacancies are available in the UK, Spain, and Greece. In England, for instance, staff at social care institutions are paid more than GBP 1,300 against a paltry BGN 400-500 at home, Markova added.
Matters are further aggravated by the fact that it is mostly young nurses that emigrate. In order to counter the negative trend, the nursing community is calling for higher salaries, lower tuition fees and increased student numbers. Earning a university degree in Nursing takes just one year less than Medicine but paychecks are much smaller and so young people opt for the latter specialty, Markova pointed.