Spain’s hospitals down by ‘several hundred’ surgeons due to foreign brain drain

VALENCIA UNIVERSITY’S professor of surgery says Spain needs another ‘several hundred surgeons’ and claims their quality is prompting foreign hospitals to head-hunt them.

Luis Sabater, who is also president of the Scientific Committee of the Spanish Surgeons Association(AEC), believes that surgical training in Spain is above levels not seen in other countries, which is an incentive for international employers.  

“Due to a foreign brain drain, we are now short in certain surgical disciplines in parts of the country and there is a shortage in practically all hospitals,” Sabater told the EFE news agency.

Luis Sabater 1

He said the AEC are trying to find out exact numbers from each of the country’s 17 regions so that they could present the findings to the Health Ministry in Madrid for them to co-ordinate a plan of action to deal with the lack of personnel.

He added that surgeons needed to have stability and decent working conditions or otherwise ‘it is difficult to prevent them leaving’.

Sabater pointed out that the quality of Spanish surgeons is such that if they go abroad for any specialist training, ‘it is routine for them to be asked to stay’ in that country.

He acknowledged that staffing issues not affects surgeons, but ‘encompasses everything’ since there is also a lack of nurses, and anaesthetists with many hospitals ‘operating continuously morning and afternoon’ to reduce waiting lists.

Sabater said that while smaller hospitals require more versatile surgeons who can address non-complex interventions, in bigger units, surgeons with specialist knowledge- who are abroad- are needed to perform operations which need a high degree of skill.


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