Catalonia will pay an additional €3,500-4,000 a year to family doctors and paediatricians who want to work in remote rural areas. In the case of nurses, midwives and social workers in primary care, this will total around €2,000 per year. This is the main measure envisaged by the plan for the operation of hard-to-cover places in rural areas in primary care, which was presented by the Ministry of Health yesterday with the aim of alleviating regional inequalities. Councilor Manel Balcells admitted that, however, “it will certainly be necessary to find very specific solutions everywhere” and stressed that there is an “explicit will” among the municipal assemblies to reach agreements.
This plan was one of the “explicit demands” of the Metges de Catalunya (MC) trade union when signing the third agreement of the Institut Català de la Salut (ICS). It was this agreement that initially prompted the nurses to go on an indefinite strike, which they called off on January 25. The aim of the health plan is to alleviate the shortage of health workers in large urban areas that are densely dominated by rural areas and to reduce the “regional inequality” that exists between the Barcelona metropolitan area and the rest of Catalonia.
The shortage of health workers (especially in family medicine, pediatrics, and all types of nursing) represents a structural problem for the health system, not only in Catalonia, but also in Europe. It is something that is everywhere, related to retirements that cannot be covered (the population is aging), but also due to a lack of planning by governments. That Salut chose to redeploy existing health workers rather than hire more (not because it didn't want to hire them, but because there were no specialists) shows how serious the problem is.
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