Outgoing Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis waded today into the increasingly heated EU debate over the recruitment of foreign health care professionals, criticizing the U.K. for its plan to hire doctors and nurses from abroad for its labor-strapped health system.
“The U.K. government has only one way: to invite practitioners from less developed countries,” Andriukaitis said in a press conference about the state of health in the EU. “But it’s unfair and absolutely unethical.”
Responding to criticism that the EU has contributed to brain drain of medical staff from poorer to richer countries in the bloc, Andriukaitis said it was up to member countries to agree among themselves about how to solve the problem.
“We need to have intergovernmental agreement, to see what we can do,” he said.
The issue has also become contentious in Germany.
During a parliament debate in Berlin today, the country’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) called on Health Minister Jens Spahn to stop recruiting nursing staff abroad, as he has done on recent trips to Mexico and Kosovo. Its lawmakers charged that Germany has “enough people in the country” and urged Spahn to either “re-educate the jobless” or train refugees that received asylum instead.
Spahn said the country was already re-training people, but that such an effort would only make sense if the person had an interest in the profession.
It’s not in Germany’s interest to “steal caregivers in other countries,” Spahn added. For this reason, he said, he chose to look for skilled staff in countries “which train more people over their capacity” of employment — such as Mexico or Kosovo.
“That’s exactly the immigration we want,” he said.