More than 10,000 foreign doctors working in Belgium

The medical profession in Belgium has become much more international, OECD figures show. The number of foreign doctors working in Belgium has doubled in 11 years and now exceeds 10,000.

For every 100 doctors in Belgium, 14 were trained abroad, Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen report on Monday. Twenty years ago, only 4 per cent of doctors were from abroad. 

While most doctors come from neighbouring France (1,620) and the Netherlands (1,590), countries of origin such as Romania (1,558 doctors) are not far behind. Other important countries of origin are Poland, Portugal, Bulgaria and Italy. 

It is a trend that puts pressure on the quality of Belgian healthcare, family medicine professor Dirk Devroey of VUB believes. "We know little about the quality of all these graduates, and many of them barely speak French, let alone Dutch," he told De Morgen. "If the current development continues, seeing the doctor in Dutch will become increasingly difficult." 

Devroey is in favour of introducing a language test for doctors and further increasing the quota for medical students in Belgium. "Only a limited number of Belgian citizens are allowed to start medical training every year, but we do not set any threshold for foreign doctors," he said. Belgium has already increased the quota for medical students in the past two years, but not quickly enough for Devroey.

The trend fits into a broader medical staff shortage problem in Belgium. A recent Eurostat report showed that the country had the second lowest ratio of doctors per capita in the EU, with only France scoring lower.



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