Spain’s medical institutions have warned the country faces a healthcare bottleneck in terms of the number of medical graduates replacing those who retire.
Just two weeks after national stats body INE announced that Spain saw more deaths than births in 2017, new findings lay bare the future challenges of providing healthcare to the country’s constantly ageing population.
A demographic study by the Medical Schooling Association and the General Council of Medical Associations points to a bottleneck of graduates who are unable to sit the MIR, the official entry exam to specialize and work for Spain’s National Health System.
Ironically, the number of medical faculties across Spain has risen from 28 in 2010 to 46 currently, putting it second just behind South Korea in terms of the number of medical schools per capita.
Up to 7,000 medical students graduate each year in Spain, but according to the Medical Schooling Association, a large number of them “never specialize”.
In 2018 only 6,513 candidates got a Resident Medical Intern (MIR) place out of 14,448 graduates who sat the exam.
Those who fail have to choose whether to wait another year to sit the exam again or look for work in the private sector, Spain’s Medical Schooling Association adds.
This spells trouble for the researchers behind this study, as their findings also underline an alarming stat: 70,000 doctors in Spain will retire in the next ten years. The average age of a doctor in Spain is currently 49.2 years.
“Our health system will be greatly affected unless we make changes regarding HR and recruitment in the face of our ageing population,” Dr Carmen Sebastianes, vice president of Cádiz ‘s College of Physicians, is quoted as saying in the study.
“In 2031, 25.6 per cent of Spain’s population will be over the age of 65,” she stated, adding that the public sector is going to need a lot more medics in the fields of primary care, anaesthesia, geriatrics, digestive system, cardiology, pulmonology and neurology.
Serafín Romero, president of the General Council of Medical Associations, stressed that this drop in doctors will be “moderate and transitory” in the Spanish regions that already have a vast pool of medical professionals.
“There is no shortage of doctors in Spain, they’re just badly distributed,” Romero explained.
Up to 58 per cent of doctors are found in four regions: Cataluña with 16.4 per cent, Madrid with 15.9 per cent, Andalusia with 15.3 per cent and Comunidad Valenciana with 10.5.
On the other side of the spectrum are La Rioja and Cantabria, with 0.7 and 1.6 per cent of the total doctor pool, regions that are more likely to bear the brunt of the drop in public doctors in the coming years.