'Generational change' contributing to healthcare sector staff shortages

A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center.
A health care worker treating a coronavirus patient at Tallinn's North Estonia Medical Center. Source: PERH

Hospitals are facing a complex challenge as an increasing number of healthcare workers no longer want to work long hours, something managers are putting down to generational change.

Kätlin Pallo, head of nursing at East Tallinn Central Hospital, received two resignation notices on Friday from staff who do not want to work this summer, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

This is part of a growing trend of employees who do not want to work full-time over the summer season.

Pallo partly put this down to the coronavirus pandemic and staff working a lot of extra overtime and burning out.

"This has led to a reduction in the workload, but also to the fact that young people returning to work for us have completely different expectations. Young people often want to challenge themselves in different healthcare settings, [they] terminate employment contracts a little more easily," she explained.

North Estonia Medical Center has a doctors shortage, especially oncologists, A&E doctors, and psychiatrists.

Priit Tohver, the hospital's quality manager, said expectations have changed as a new generation has entered the workplace.

"They want to put more emphasis on the working conditions they have, the flexibility, the meaning that the job gives them, the opportunities for development — all these things are very important for new workers," he said.

While working night and weekend shifts are inevitable in hospitals, health centers are also struggling to find doctors and nurses.

Family doctor Eero Merilind said a new situation has arisen where it is better for a doctor not to have a patient list than to have one.

"If you do not have a list, you can get replacement patients and you can negotiate your own price at the market price," he said.

More doctors are now retiring than graduating from university, he claimed. This means family doctors face a choice between burning out or hiring an expensive replacement.

"If we open up this Pandora's box of some people working the way they want to work and getting paid twice as much for it, and others working the way they are contracted to work in the health insurance system, it will create a huge conflict," said Merilind.

Asked if doctors' salaries are so high that it is no longer necessary to work full time, Tohver, who has researched why doctors leave, said this is not the case.

"Please don't lower our wages, because we have to look at the fact that we are also competing with health care providers across the Gulf [of Finland], and there the wages are many times higher, and it is possible to work remotely and earn that wage. We have to take into account the fact that we are competing with much better-off societies in terms of hiring our doctors and nurses," he said.


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Editor: Merili Nael, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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