Thousands of doctor vacancies in Germany remained unfilled in 2019
5,9 percent of all general practitioner positions in Germany remained unfilled last year, according to new figures - although the shortage of doctors is not evenly spread across the country.
Doctors unevenly distributed in Germany
Last year, there were thousands of unfilled vacancies for general practitioners across Germany. Nationwide, a total of 5,9 percent of planned positions could not be allocated. This was revealed in figures published by the federal government, in response to a request from the left-wing MP Sabine Zimmerman.
The data shows that the greatest shortages were faced in Saarland, where 12,3 percent of all doctor positions remained unfilled in 2019. City-states like Hamburg (0 percent) and Berlin (0,7 percent), on the other hand, were much better supplied with medical staff.
Shortages were also recorded in Saxony-Anhalt (10,4 percent), Rhineland-Palatinate (9,5 percent), Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (8,9 percent each). Overall, in the eastern (new) federal states, 6,4 percent of all general practitioner positions remained vacant, compared to 5,8 percent in the west.
Number of doctor vacancies in Germany rising
In recent years, there has been a fluctuating rise in the overall number of doctor vacancies in Germany. In 2014, there were 2.213 vacancies, and in 2018, 2.875. But it is difficult to make direct comparisons between different years because the number of doctor positions across the country changes regularly as the federal government updates specifications and regional plans.
Nonetheless, left-wing politician Zimmermann commented critically on the federal government’s figures: “A shortage of doctors, long distances and long waiting times have long been the norm for many patients,” she said, emphasising that, in rural areas especially, more needed to be done to ensure doctor positions are filled.
She also called for an end to the coexistence of statutory and private health insurance in Germany, which she blamed for exacerbating the uneven distribution of doctors: “The existing higher remuneration system is also an incentive for doctors to settle in regions with above-average wages and a large number of privately-insured people.”