Wanted in Germany: doctors who can speak German
by FFE EU News Staff
‘There are many doctors who come from abroad, and they speak only very poor German.’ This statement came from German Patient Protection Association head Hartwig Meyer on describing the situation of healthcare in Germany.
Germany has been seeing fewer German doctors practicing in the country as more of their local practitioners retire. A report by the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV) last year said that the country is in need of 2,600 more general practitioners and 2,000 more specialists to fill vacated slots.
Doctor shortages especially in rural areas of the country have led to importation of the experts from neighbouring countries. According to the association, the number of foreign-born doctors in Germany increased from 5% in 2007 to 15% in 2012.
However, many of these foreign-born doctors have complained of the complexity of the Germany language. In addition, there have been cases of hospitals being sued by patients because of miscommunication issues.
Doctors’ union Marburger Bund managing director Armin Ehl revealed that ‘it’s hard for patients, because they worry that their doctor doesn’t understand them.
‘There are some medical departments in rural areas, where besides the head doctor, there are only foreign doctors.’
To address the problem, Marburger Bund has been lobbying for a nation-wide standardised language test for immigrant doctors. As of now, foreign-born doctors need only to pass the European B2 certificate in language to work in Germany. But medical association for Rhineland-Palatinate head Juergen Hoffart said the B2 certificate did not guarantee that the doctors could communicate with patients using medical terminology.
In addition to language barrier, fluid movement across EU borders has led to increased concerns of guaranteed quality healthcare from immigrant doctors.
Last summer, Germany’s health ministers agreed to look into the issue. But many worry that standardizing the complicated regulations that come with creating a uniform language skill test could take time. Institute for Education and Profession director Matthias Klug said ‘We have chaos in Germany now.
‘Every state does something different, it’s like the Middle Ages.’