The number of registered foreign doctors in Portugal rose from 3,736 in 2008 to 3,937 in 2010 according to official figures, with foreigners now representing 9.3 percent of the country’s practicing physicians.
Data from Portugal’s doctor’s regulatory body, the Ordem dos Médicos (OM), shows that in 2008 there were 39,473 doctors authorised to practice in this country, 3,736 of whom were foreign. In 2009 there were 3,842 foreign practitioners on the Ordem’s register, of a total 40,664, and last year, of 42,031 authorised doctors, 3,937 were not Portuguese.
The majority of foreign doctors are from within the European Union, namely Spain, from where the number of physicians working in Portugal has become more widespread in recent years. In 2008 there were 2,355 Spanish doctors working in Portugal, and last year there were 2,426.
There is also a rising number of Brazilian doctors working in Portugal, having increased, from 562 in 2008, to 621 in 2009 and 657 last year.
Southern American doctors working in Portugal are also on the up, having risen from 106 in 2008 to 150 in 2010, largely due to the Ministry of Health sourcing professionals from this continent to keep national resources above water.
“The hiring of foreign doctors is part of a strategy and therefore there are currently Uruguayan and Cuban specialists practicing general and family medicine in Portugal”, a source from the Ministry of Health confirmed to Lusa News Agency.
Asked whether more foreign doctors were due to arrive, the source added “according to evident needs, the Ministry of Health has continued to find doctors in various countries, though no hiring procedures have been, as yet, completed.”
Data from the OM shows that the number of doctors from Portuguese-speaking African countries (PALOP) practicing in Portugal is gradually dropping. In 2008 there were 429 Portuguese-speaking African doctors, and last year, 382.
In 2010 there were also 238 doctors from European but non-EU countries enrolled on the OM’s register, along with five African doctors, 18 Asian medical professionals, two Australian practitioners and 21 northern American doctors.
An OM spokesperson explained that, even though foreign doctors may be enrolled on the national register, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are practicing. Some enrol to attain a qualification in a particular medical specialty, and then return to their country of origin, particularly those from a PALOP country.
In recent times the Ministry of Health has developed various measures to overcome the shortage of doctors. It has increased the number available places on university courses; it has created new university courses and has also constructed mechanisms to allow retired doctors or those who applied for early retirement to return to work for the National Health Service (SNS).
The new head of the OM, José Manuel da Silva, said he had no objection to more foreign doctors coming to work in Portugal “as long as current laws are obeyed.”
He said, in his opinion, “it is absolutely crucial, for the wellbeing and defence of patients, that there is an adequate ratio of doctors for the healthcare needs of the population, with quality, accessibility and speed.”