Basque a barrier for doctors without local language

6th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

6 November 2007, Bilbao - After seven years working as a pediatrician in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa, 42-year-old Aitor Saénz de Ugarte is considering moving to another region. Despite good results in exams for a place at the regional health authority, he says he will likely be rejected. The reason? He doesn't speak Basque. "If you don't speak the language, then your job prospects here are scant," he says.

6 November 2007

Bilbao - After seven years working as a pediatrician in the Basque province of Guipúzcoa, 42-year-old Aitor Saénz de Ugarte is considering moving to another region. Despite good results in exams for a place at the regional health authority, he says he will likely be rejected. The reason? He doesn't speak Basque. "If you don't speak the language, then your job prospects here are scant," he says.

Specialists are in short supply throughout Spain's devolved regional health systems, but in the case of the Basque Country, the problem is worsened by the requirement that medical staff - and all government-paid employees - must be able to speak Basque. Indeed, linguistic skills make up 10 percent of the exams doctors must sit to win a secure contract.

Pediatrics is one of seven basic areas of specialization in which the region's health authority recognizes a shortfall. In Álava, the province where Basque is least spoken in general, one in four pediatric posts has had to be temporarily filled by GPs.

Encar de la Iglesia, a 41-year-old pediatrician from Asturias who works in a health center in San Sebastián, says that the policy of imposing the language should be a long-term goal. "Learning Basque makes more sense for your career than doing a PhD," she says.

The head of the Spanish Association of Pediatric Intensive Care, Juan Casado Flores, says he is "surprised and disappointed" at the situation, which is also to be found in Spain's other bilingual regions: Catalonia, Valencia, and Galicia. He came up against the problem three months ago, when he was asked to form part of a jury to select four specialists for hospitals in two Basque towns. "A doctor who speaks Basque but who has no other skills has much more chance of getting a specialist's post than a doctor with more experience and recognition in his or her area of specialization but who doesn't speak the language," says Casado.

The Basque Society for Family and Community Medicine, which has been highly critical of the regional government's policy, is currently awaiting the outcome of a complaint it made following exams in December of 2006 which gave 13 points to a candidate's specialist qualifications, and 16 to their knowledge of the language.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ EDUARDO AZUMENDI 2007]

Subject: Spanish news

 

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