I was amazed to discover that more than 55% of the 1800+ doctors who were newly registered in Sweden last year were not educated in Sweden. The commonest place outside Sweden where newly registered doctors were educated was Germany, followed by Poland and Denmark. Over 200 doctors gaining registration for the first time were from countries outside the EU, and of these the commonest place of education was Iraq.
A spokesperson for Socialstyrelsen, the registering body, said that this cross germination was a good thing for Sweden, bringing different experiences and new ideas. It was not clear from the newspaper article whether those educated outside Sweden were actually Swedes going abroad for training, or foreigners migrating to Sweden. Socialstyrelsen also said that they had no knowledge of whether doctors gaining registration in Sweden continued to work here or not.
There is apparently a shortage of doctors in Sweden, and Maria can bear witness to the number of doctors working in her hospital who are not native speakers of Swedish. I am an outsider myself, working towards registration here, but I have to say that this practice of importing doctors from outside seems to me quite irresponsible of policy makers. It is, of course, very costly to train a doctor. There is a huge demand for places in medical schools here, and despite talks about increasing the intake, little seems to be happening. I can only assume that the Swedish government doesn’t want the expense of training more doctors. It is no doubt a lot cheaper to use foreign trained doctors.
Does it matter where a doctor is trained? Germany, Poland and Denmark are near neighbours anyway. Why not outsource medical training to them? Aren’t doctors just a commodity like anything else? Why not buy in this commodity just as bananas are imported from South America? Is self sufficiency any more important in health than in fruit and vegetables? I suppose there will always be a ready supply of foreign trained doctors, certainly from less developed countries. Perhaps it is easier (and cheaper) to teach them Swedish than to teach Swedish students medicine.
Whatever the answers to these questions, the fact remains that Sweden must look carefully at how to maintain the medical workforce, and it is clear that using overseas trained doctors is not an adequate answer.