Amid aging doctors and staff shortage, Czech health system faces breakdown

With over 400 doctor's surgeries forced to close in the past five years, pediatric and adolescent care is worst-affected by the shortage of physicians.


Written by ČTK Published on 22.05.2024 11:09:00 (updated on 22.05.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czechia's Institute of Health Information and Statistics (ÚZIS) has reported a dire shortage of doctors in the country, with half of all general practitioners for children and adolescents reaching – or already at – retirement age. According to ÚZIS director Ladislav Dušek, this has led to a decrease in surgeries and a need for 1,100 new full-time positions. 

"We are slightly above the European average in terms of full-time doctors," Dušek explained, but he pointed out that the age demographic of practitioners was uneven. He added that Czechia will need to prepare for "an inevitable restructuring of care and a drop in capacity."

Psychiatry among worst-affected

The shortage of doctors is particularly evident in specialties such as child psychiatry, where there are only 157 specialists in the entire country, and over one-third of them are nearing retirement age. Pediatrics in general is also badly affected, with around 390,000 children needing to find a new general practitioner in the past five years after almost 400 surgeries closed.

Dušek emphasized that this has resulted in a regular risk of breakdown in care in some regions. The situation is slightly better in adult psychiatry, but the growing demand for mental health professionals, especially among young patients, is still a concern.

Intensive care and diabetology also under strain

Another issue facing Czechia is that the number of patients with diabetes is also increasing, estimated to rise by one-fifth, to over 1 million between 2020 and 2030, while over 30 percent of diabetologists are currently at retirement age. This has resulted in general practitioners for adults taking on additional work, further contributing to the shortage.

According to Dušek, half of surgeons are also of retirement age, with around 50 graduating each year, while around 1,000 will retire within 10 years. The fields of allergology, internal medicine, clinical neurology, anaesthesiology, intensive care medicine, and pathology are also problematic.

According to data from 2018, if no changes are made, a third of all doctors in the country will be over 60 by 2025. However, there is hope for the future, as the number of medical graduates is increasing. There were about 21,292 students at medical faculties (LF) in 2017, and 2,500 Czechs graduated, of whom about 1,100 were doctors, and about 700 foreigners. Currently, the number of LF students is almost 26,800.

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