During the ten-year period from 2005 to 2015, over ten thousand doctors and eight thousand nurses left Italy to work abroad, Italian media have reported.
Italy’s medical “brain drain” is not expected to slow up any time soon, ANSA reported, with estimates suggesting that matters will get worse before they get better.
The number of Italians emigrating from their home country more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, according to a 2016 report from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), which showed that key destination countries included the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and France.
Italy’s migration outflow grew from 125,730 persons in 2013 to 136,330 in 2014, the report stated.
According to the most recent data, every year some 1,500 graduates in medicine go to attend specialization schools abroad and a high percentage of these never return. The medical labor union ANAAO Assomed has predicted that Italy’s National Health Service will lose another 70 thousand medical professionals between now and 2023.
The primary destination for doctors seeking their fortune abroad is Great Britain, which accounts for 33 percent of expatriated Italian doctors, followed by Switzerland with 26 percent. The medical professionals most likely to emigrate are orthopedists, pediatricians, gynecologists, and anesthesiologists.
The fallout from continued emigration of Italy’s best and brightest is expected to make itself felt sooner rather than later, reports suggest, and hospital treatment will be significantly affected by 2025.
Italy will also suffer economically, since medical training costs the Italian state 150 thousand euros for each individual doctor.
The number one Italian region for medical emigration is Veneto, whose governor Luca Zaia has called for urgent action to retain doctors.
Mr. Zaia blames the exodus on numerical restrictions at universities, a lack of specialized scholarships, the lack of access to hospitals for young postgraduates, and underpayment for medical professionals.
Massimo Tortorella, the president of Consulcesi, which helps Italian doctors with their medical training in the UK, said that working abroad offers Italian doctors better opportunities than staying in Italy.
In the UK, “the profession is more meritocratic, the career prospects are better, and salaries are much higher,” Tortorella said.
“Italy works hard to train excellent health workers, spending huge sums of money, and then gives this asset to other countries,” he said.
“In Italy there is a boom in doctors (and medical students) with their suitcases packed,” Consulcesi said in a statement, “ready to leave our country because access to the profession is more meritocratic abroad, from enrollment in the Faculty of Medicine to specialization, without forgetting the more attractive work conditions, regarding salaries as well as other aspects.”
Even leaders of the Catholic Church in Italy have expressed their concern over Italy’s high rate of emigration, and in 2016 the President of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) decried the exodus of Italian youth, warning that the loss of talented Italian citizens was “depleting” the country.
At the time, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco linked the high levels of Italian emigration to an ongoing economic crisis that had dried up the jobs market and left many Italians in dire financial straits. Unfortunately, since then the crisis has only grown worse.
“The official figures speak for themselves,” Bagnasco said, noting Italy’s grim economic statistics.
“New contracts have decreased by 12.1 percent, GDP is not growing, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 years has risen to 39.2 percent and industrial production has diminished by 0.8 percent,” he said at the time.
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