Foreign specialists in the majority in many hospitals

Stephen Gadd
February 11th, 2019

This article is more than 5 years old.

The health service has become dependent on doctors from abroad, but not all of them have an adequate grasp of the Danish language

Patients in Denmark increasingly encounter foreign doctor (photo: filckr/Vic)

If you go to hospital to see a specialist, you would expect to be able to communicate with the doctor about your symptoms and treatment. You would also expect that doctor to be qualified to the same level as a Danish doctor.

Nowadays, due to recruitment difficulties at home, there are more and more specialists who are not native Danish speakers and who have been trained in their home countries in hospitals. This is especially true outside university towns.

During the period from 2000 until 2015 alone, the number of specialists with foreign qualifications in Denmark went up from 156 to 1,509, reports DR Nyheder.

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Worse in the provinces
According to statistics compiled by DR, in the hospitals in Holstebro, Herning, Esbjerg, Aabenraa, Sønderborg and Rønne there is at least one department where foreign doctors are in the majority.

Else Marie Damsgaard, the head doctor at Aarhus University Hospital, is worried and is afraid that a doctor’s inadequate grasp of Danish could be dangerous to patients.

“You can really go wrong if you don’t fully understand the patient because it’s all about the symptoms the patient is describing. Yo need to understand your patient,” she said.

Damsgaard also points out that having departments where there are more foreign than Danish doctors is problematical as there are not enough Danish doctors who can help their foreign colleagues if there are questions.

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Comparing qualifications
Another problem is qualifications. “It often happens that the competencies that they [foreign specialists] have are inadequate for the Danish health service,” added Damsgaard.

Doctors with qualifications from EU countries are almost always approved immediately as a consequence of the EU rules regarding free mobility of labour.

If an applicant comes from a country outside the EU, they have to take a number of tests including a Danish language test, and two tests of medical competence – as well as undergoing a lengthy probationary period before they are given Danish authorisation.

However, according to a number of senior doctors it is not always easy to judge the competence of a foreign doctor.

Since 2010, around 500 Nordic doctors, 900 EU doctors and around 300 doctors from non-EU countries have been given Danish authorisation, allowing them to treat Danish patients.


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