Pandemic dents finances of Swiss doctors

A higher proportion of doctors contracted COVID-19 compared to the general population, but they were also tested far more frequently. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Two-thirds of doctors’ surgeries in Switzerland expect to end the year with financial losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some 42% said income has been “significantly” eroded as a result of people staying at home during the lockdown rather than visiting their doctor with ailments.

This content was published on July 16, 2020 - 12:34

A survey of more than 12,000 physicians by the Swiss Medical Association in May found that workloads significantly increased for around one in ten respondents. But a third experienced a significant drop in work in March, rising to nearly half in April.

As a result, 4% of respondents said the financial hit threatened their very existence. More than a third had to put staff on short-time work while a small minority had to lay off some workers.

Of the respondents, 282 said they had contracted COVID-19. This is a higher infection rate (2.3%) than the general population, but the report points out that a greater percentage of doctors were tested. A quarter of doctors said they belonged to an “at risk” group as defined by the health authorities.

Around a third of the surveyed doctors said they had been in contact with infected or potentially infected patients at least every other day in March. That figure had dropped to 12% by the mid-May. Just over a quarter said they had never been in contact with infected patients during the same time frame.

The availability of protective equipment, such as face masks and disinfectant, was a problem at the start of the pandemic, with well over half of respondents reporting shortages. The situation did not improve until May.

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