About 200 Swiss-trained doctors leave the country to work abroad each year, according to a report published by the Federal Health Office on Monday. The number is equivalent to about a quarter of those graduating.
Of those who go, more than half intend to stay abroad for at least a year, with just over 42 per cent expecting to stay for several years, the report says. More than 21 per cent intend to stay between six months and a year, and nearly 18 per cent for less than six months.
Those who have not yet acquired a postgraduate qualification tend to leave in order to get further training, while others go to practise. Only eight per cent leave purely to conduct research, the office found.
It is the first time that such figures have been collected. The health office sees this “strikingly high number” as backing its demand for an increase in the number of university places available for human medicine.
The government made recommendations in 2011 about ways of tackling the shortage of doctors, calling for the number trained each year to be increased from 800 to 1,200 or 1,300. However, this did not take into account the 200 “emigrants”, the health office says.
Discussion of the number of doctors in Switzerland has previously focused on the large number coming from abroad. Up to the end of September the health office had recognised the qualifications of 1,769 doctors from European Union and Efta countries.
The health office conducted its study by contacting the 222 people who had applied for foreign recognition for their Swiss qualifications. It received answers from 140 of them, which makes the sample representative, the office says.
The most popular destinations are the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and France. Doctors wanting to continue their training or to conduct research tend to choose the English-speaking countries, while France is the top destination for those wanting to practise, ahead of Germany and the US.
The reasons most frequently cited for going abroad were access to a greater number of cases and chances for training and practising.
The study was published on the same day that Interior Minister Alain Berset completed consultations with the relevant parties on controversial plans to reintroduce a moratorium on the opening of new specialist medical practices.
The ministry will now consider the views it heard. A definitive proposal will then be submitted to parliament before the end of November, and the two houses will vote on it in the spring session.
Berset wants the moratorium to come into force in April for a period of three years.
The opening of all new practices was frozen in 2002, but in 2010 the ban was relaxed so that it affected only specialists. This ruling was lifted at the end of 2011. The result has been a proliferation of new practices, in particular specialists practising in towns.
The government hopes the freeze, if approved, will curb burgeoning health costs.
But Jacques de Haller, the outgoing chairman of the Swiss Medical Association, told the Swiss News Agency that Swiss doctors were more likely to stay abroad if they were prevented from opening a practice at home.
swissinfo.ch and agencies