Where did all the Romanian doctors and French students go?

Mobility within the European Union also applies to the medical sphere, resulting in a freedom which leads to problems as well as advantages.
The effect of medical tourism was the topic discussed at the Central and Eastern Europe Medical Tourism and Healthcare Summit from Zagreb, Croatia, 17-18.05.2011. Countries such as Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and even Poland attract the attention of medical tourism agencies, associations, hospitals, and consultants from all over the world.

But to what extent can the EU be blamed for the failings in our medical system? Migration flows have been increasing substantially for the past ten years and have accelerated since January 1 2007, the date of Romania and Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union.

Freedom of movement, the creation of low cost airlines and the unification and the recognition of medical studies between the member states has led to a “European Medical Highway” linking western and eastern Europe. Professionals leave their countries to practice, students continue their training aboard while patients take up medical tourism.


The UK, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria and even France and Germany recruit doctors from eastern Europe to fill the vacancies for general practitioners. These countries guarantee these adopted practitioners a high salary and the prospect of better working conditions.

While doctors go west, students go east. Western patients are following the trend. Tired of waiting for weeks for an appointment and unable to pay the high prices for medical procedures( in particular dental and optician’s fees), they turn to private practices based in Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, no longer hesitating at taking a plane in order to have dental implants inserted or have an eye operation.

France and Romania are a perfect case of the “medical highway” phenomenon. In France approximately 12% of foreign doctors are Romanian. Since 1 January 2007, when Romania joined the European Union, the number of Romanian doctors who are members of the French medical association has risen from 174 to almost 1000. Through fares or agencies, French municipalities have no difficulty at all recruiting specialists and general practitioners seduced by the promise of salaries ten or fifteen times higher than in Romania, not to mention advantages such as: accommodation, a place in a crèche, a consulting room, help with setting up, etc.).

The Romanian public health system is suffering from the full force of this medical exodus. Romanian hospitals have a shortage of doctors. The government invests in private clinics for foreigners, thus exacerbating an already alarming situation. Without financing, there are insufficient technical resources and drugs in state institutions. Last October the main hospital in Brasov temporarily closed its accident and emergency department because of lack of drugs and supplies. At the same time, the hospital of the Mehedinti region, in Drobeta Turnu Severin, announced total arrears of 1.35 million Lei, as well as its inability to cover hospital staff salaries.

Ironically French students are leaving France to continue their medical training in Romanian Universities. Finding themselves victims of the unrelenting demands of the selection process( 85% of the student fail at the end of the first year), they join establishments such as Cluj University, which has set up a French department. Unlike the French faculties, Cluj University charges fees( 5000 euro/year) and recruits from file. Today it has more than 260 French students. If French students decide to leave Paris for Budapest it is not because the medical programme there is more complete, but because finishing their medical studies in France involves so many hurdles.

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