Junior doctors rise up in PolandBMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3472 (Published 22 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3472
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Recently, BMJ published a short news entitled “Junior doctors rise up in Poland”, written by Katherine Bettany. On the 18th of June 2016, over 5 000 junior doctors from across Poland took part in a demonstration in Warsaw in protest against low wages, poor quality of training, difficult access to specialty courses and excessively long working hours. We would like to provide more information about the worrying situation of young doctors in Poland.
In spring 2016, the Centre for Studies and Analyses and the Commission for the Young Doctors of the Polish Medical Chamber conducted a survey among 2691 doctors and dentists under 35 years of age on the current specialist training system in Poland. 69% of respondents have a negative opinion about the system. As a significant barrier to access specialist training, 72% of doctors list low wages and 89% - the need to work extra hours to support for their families. According to the EU Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) and Polish Labour Law, the working week should not exceed 48 hours. Junior doctors reported that they needed an additional job to compensate for a low salary received in hospitals, and work significantly longer than the regulations require (Table 1).
Even though the overall number of residency training posts financed by the State in Poland is large, it does not match the demand in many medical specialties. Doctors interested in training in a specialty of their own choice may have to agree to a voluntary, no-salary vacant, pay for their professional liability insurance and additional training courses. 95.7% of doctors notice the need for an external accreditation and evaluation of training. According to another study, where 3000 contracts in 73 hospitals were analysed, an average salary of a junior doctor is 13.65 PLN (2.61 GBP) per hour. Fully trained specialists receive 16.89 PLN (3.23 GBP) per hour.
The average number of doctors in European countries is 3.4 per 1000 inhabitants. In Poland, it is only 2.2/1000. This indicator has not changed for more than 20 years. Additionally, the average age of a physician practising in Poland is 54.5 years. It is estimated that up to 30.000 Polish doctors work abroad. In 2015, 836 doctors and 196 dentists requested issuance of certificates required for work in the EU (9597 doctors and 2798 dentists since 2005).
To prevent emigration of Polish doctors, the National Convention of Physicians called for raising the salary of a doctor up to 2-3 national average wages in the Resolution from the 7th of January 2006. The Committee for the Young Doctors and the Residents Union have been struggling for more than 3 years to improve working conditions of young doctors. Their demands are not limited to financial matters. A number of solutions to improve the current system have been proposed. Numerous policy statements to the Ministry of Health, to the Prime Minister and to the public have been issued. Until now, little has changed.
We hope that this additional information will be useful to international readers, for problems with medical staff are common in EU and in other countries.
Competing interests: No competing interests