Now that the omikron variant is taking over the world, hospitals in all kinds of countries are in trouble. Due to the rapid influx of patients, but also due to the lack of sick nurses. Respirators and IC beds are no longer the bottleneck, but the availability of staff. Everyone is looking for nurses to increase capacity. Dutch hospitals have already played with plans to bring in foreign nurses by plane to relieve the worst emergency. It failed. Are other countries already succeeding in bringing in foreign workers and thus in sustaining health care?
In any case, the Netherlands employed few foreign nurses in the health field, according to figures from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the origin of nurses. The OECD looks at the country where a person was educated, not the nationality itself. Of nurses working in the Netherlands, a total of 1.3 per cent have received training in another country. The majority of them come from Belgium and speak Dutch. In addition, a handful of nurses work in the Netherlands with training in Suriname and Germany, but the numbers are negligible.
There are many more foreign nurses working in Anglo-Saxon countries. In the UK, over 16% of nurses received training in another country. In New Zealand and Australia, which exchange staff, the percentages are even higher.
The percentage of nurses of foreign origin is also remarkably high in Switzerland. French-speaking, German-speaking and Italian-speaking nurses can easily find a job in Switzerland thanks to the language. Switzerland is also a popular country due to the higher wages in the country.
In most OECD countries, however, the percentage of foreign health workers is much lower. The situation is better compared to that of small neighboring countries like Belgium and Denmark. In Belgium, which can attract French nurses in addition to Dutch nurses, 4.1% come from foreign training. In Denmark, where staff from neighboring Scandinavian countries join, this percentage is 1.9%.
Although the percentage of foreign workers in the Netherlands has increased slightly over the past five years, little has really changed compared to 2010. In Belgium and Germany, the proportion of foreign workers is steadily increasing. With special recruitment programs for students and language courses, some countries are increasing enrollment, according to an OECD report from November 2021.
The UK has, especially in the years leading up to Brexit, recruited Filipino nurses on a large scale. The Philippines has had a deliberate policy of training nurses to work in other countries for years. Two-thirds of the 166,000 Filipino nurses work in the United States. Over 30,000 nurses of Filipino descent work in the UK, 11.5,000 in Canada and about 9.5,000 in Australia. The share is slightly lower in Europe, but the highest in Norway.
Norway has also invested in training and increasing wages over the past five years to address health care shortages, and is seen as a fairly successful example by the OECD. But the Norwegians are still grappling with a staff shortage and must hope that the increase in hospital admissions will remain manageable in the weeks to come.
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