One of the most pressing issues in the Hungarian health sector is the shortage of nurses, G7 reports. However, this is not only a problem in Hungary.
Most hospitals in Budapest are unable to use operating room capacity due to a shortage of nurses, which is adding to already long wait lists. With lifting the moratorium on redundancies on June 1, the sector expects further outflows. However, for healthcare professionals (a broader category that includes not only nurses and specialist nurses but also physiotherapists, paramedics, and midwives, among others), each new departure is essentially a tangible loss, as there has already been a significant staff shortage for some time.
While in the countryside the shortage of doctors is more severe, in the capital the shortage of nurses is more predominant. In Budapest clinics, this means daily difficulties, effectively limiting patient care. For a long time, the Hungarian healthcare system has focused on the shortage of doctors, not realizing in time that the shortage of specialist staff is even greater. At the moment they are struggling to compensate for this,”
Eszter Sinkó, a health economist and program director of Semmelweis University’s Center for Health Management Training, told G7.
In 2017, the government announced a five-year, phased pay raise for healthcare professionals. In total, basic pay has increased by 72 percent of the salary base, with the last increase of 21 percent in January this year. Despite this, wage pressure has only increased recently. This is mostly due to the fact that wages for doctors were increased but nurses’ wages have fallen behind. While doctors used to earn on average roughly twice as much as nurses on paper, this difference has now increased three to four times and will be five times higher after the additional medical pay raise announced for next year. How much hospital nurses bring home depends on a number of factors, such as their qualifications, the number of years they have worked, and any overtime they accrue.
The government is not yet talking about further concrete wage increases for healthcare workers, but Minister of the Interior, Sándor Pintér, hinted at the ministerial committee hearing that it is treating the issue as a priority.
According to the Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK),
It is essential to increase the salaries of professional staff in line with those of doctors, to increase the prestige of their profession and to ensure that they are replaced.”
In a recent interview, György Velkey, Director General of Bethesda Children’s Hospital and newly elected President of the Hungarian Hospital Association, called the nursing shortage the biggest crisis facing the entire Western world.
In the richer countries, this shortage is being filled to a large extent by the influx from the East and the South. We do not have that kind of movement and that is why Hungary is in a difficult situation.”
Hungary is a major donor country when it comes to nursing staff, with Austria and Germany the main countries where multiple Hungarian nurses work in the same ward.
According to G7, Hungarian nurses’ wages were more than half the OECD average, with only Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania slightly above the average in the 34 countries. In Munich, a newly qualified nurse starts on €3,300 gross, three times the salary of a Hungarian junior nurse. This attracts many, but mass emigration is also limited by a lack of skills, such as speaking the foreign language of the country in question.
The Hungarian nursing shortage is only partially reflected in international statistics. In Hungary, there are 6.6 nurses per one thousand people; the Polish figure is even worse (5:1). The EU average is 8:5, in Germany, it is 13.
Featured image via Csaba Krizsán/MTI