Bleeding doctors: Bulgaria’s medical crisis

Many of Bulgaria’s medical graduates choose to leave the country and work abroad [Posrednik newspaper/Denitsa Kitanova]


The population is getting older, there’s more people falling sick, so there’s enough work for everyone. To hide your ‘trade’ from others is not good.

– Dr Georgi Nikolov


Some doctors get state-sponsored positions where the salary is double, but only a lucky few receive such jobs.

Stoyanova has gone to medical career fairs where firms hired by hospitals in Germany advertise positions. She heard that young doctors specialising in Germany receive 2,500 euros ($3,400) to 3,000 euros ($4,100) per month after taxes.

The other two women studying medicine – Martina Vulcheva and Ivelina Dimitrova – are also considering options abroad. Vulcheva has looked into a medical career in France and Dimitrova has explored options in the United States and United Kingdom.

Medical brain drain

Every year Bulgaria loses between 500 and 600 doctors to emigration, according to Dr Tsvetan Raychinov, head of the Bulgarian Doctors’ Union. The graduating class of medical students for the whole country is about 600 people annually.

According to a 2011 study, Bulgaria ranks lowest among EU countries in terms of remuneration for doctors, which for that year was 307 euros ($417) compared to 2,180 euros ($3,000) in the UK, 3,842 euros ($5,230) in Germany, and 4,569 euros ($6,200) in France. 

One anaesthesiologist who requested anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the media says since Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, four of her colleagues in one of the biggest state hospitals in Sofia left for France and one emigrated to Germany.

She says the number of anaesthesiologists has fallen by half in the last five years, and the hospital she works at has not been able to fill vacancies for specialists in her field.

Although monetary considerations are part of the motivation for young doctors to leave, Petrova and her

colleagues also tell stories of corruption, nepotism, dysfunction and poor facilities. One major reason discouraging young doctors from pursuing their careers in Bulgaria is the difficulties they face trying to specialise. [Full article