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Three quarters of new doctors are from abroad

Almost three quarters of new doctors in Switzerland in 2019 had studied abroad, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper has revealed. The figures show how much the Swiss health system relies on foreign doctors, the report says.

Around 4,000 people received the Swiss authorities’ blessing to practice medicine last year, the newspaper said on Sunday, citing recently published statistics from the Federal Office of Public Health. Almost three quarters of them – around 2,900 – had trained abroad and received official recognition of their qualifications.

The number of foreign doctors has been rising in Switzerland over the last decade, mostly due to the free movement of people agreement between the European Union and non-member Switzerland, the paper said.

Most of the foreign doctors came from neighbouring countries Germany (1,208), Italy (352) and France (258).  There was a significant number from eastern Europe. “The number of Romanian doctors has increased tenfold over the last decade, to reach almost 150 last year,” the NZZ am Sonntag said.


The Federal Office of Public Health told the newspaper that the situation was “not ideal”. But the Swiss Medical Association went further. “We have been calling for a long time for each country to train enough doctors. The fact that Switzerland has neglected this over the past 20 years is now plain to see,” a spokeswoman said.

She added that it was going to get harder to recruit enough qualified medical staff because Switzerland’s neighbours also had a lack of doctors and their working conditions – often cited as a reason for doctors to move to Switzerland – were improving.

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Health Directors took the same line. “The reliance on foreign countries makes the system vulnerable, especially in crisis times,” a spokesman said.

+ How curbing immigration would hurt Swiss hospitals

Training boost

Currently of the almost 38,000 doctors working in Switzerland, around a third of them qualified abroad.

In 2016 the government announced extra measures, including CHF100 million ($104 million) for extra medicine courses, to ensure there were enough home-trained doctors in Switzerland. The aim was to produce 1,300 Swiss-trained doctors a year from 2025. Last year there were around 1,100, up from around 1,000 in 2018.

NZZ am Sonntag/swissinfo.ch/ilj