ALGIERS—Concerns over the loss of Algerian medical graduates to other countries flared anew this month after French health authorities announced that more than 1,200 Algerian doctors had passed an exam that qualifies them to practice medicine in France.
France recently created nearly 2,000 jobs in its health system that are open to non-European foreigners, and the Algerians who passed the “épreuves de vérification des connaissances” (EVC), or knowledge verification tests, are qualified to apply for them.
The National Union of Algerian Doctors and Researchers (UNDCA) published a list of the doctors who it says have been authorised to work in the French health sector. Most of them have been working in Algerian hospitals for years and are highly experienced, the union’s statement said.
In a statement to Al-Fanar Media, Mohamed El-Fal, a member of the union, described this news as “a drain to Algerian students”.
“Now, they dream about nothing but leaving the country due to the current situation, and the lack of adequate equipment that would enable them to provide something for their compatriots,” El-Fal said.
“The Algerian government spends on medical colleges and higher health institutes in order to train medical specialists, and that eventually benefits the French health sector,” he added.
Years of Study and Civil Service
Algerian doctors study medicine for six years to become general practitioners, then continue their studies while working in hospitals for another three years to become specialists.
“If the French Ministry of Health’s announcement of authorizing 1,200 Algerian doctors to practice in its hospitals was surprising, then everyone would be shocked if the total number of Algerian participants who sat for the exam was revealed.”Samir Nasri
A member of the Free Student General Union in Algerian Universities
According to Larbi Ben Hara, a member of the Deanship of Algerian Doctors, a government body that regulates the practice of medicine in Algeria, over 3,000 doctors in various specialties graduate from Algeria’s medical faculties annually.
After that, the law requires medical graduates to perform a civil service of three years in hospitals in the north, and two years in hospitals in southern governorates. “This is viewed by new doctors as a hindrance to their academic and professional careers,” he said.
Samir Nasri, from the National Office of the Free Student General Union at Algerian universities, told Al-Fanar Media that most medical students dream of emigrating after completing their specialisation studies, and most of them achieve that goal. That’s because European hospitals that do not have time to train doctors depend on practice-ready medical professionals who trained overseas.
“If the French Ministry of Health’s announcement of authorising 1,200 Algerian doctors to practice in its hospitals was surprising, then everyone would be shocked if the total number of Algerian participants who sat for the exam was revealed,” he added.
Temptations to Leave
Lehilali Mowaffak, an Algerian physician, says that a student “begins to plan escaping his homeland since his first years at university,” because of the conditions new doctors face in Algeria. Temptations to leave come from foreign governments or private bodies, or from colleagues working abroad, Mowaffak said. “So most medical students think of emigrating.”
He added that the annual exodus of Algerian medical graduates to European and Gulf countries is “an escape from the bitter reality of Algeria’s health sector, given the laws that make doctors at the bottom of the state’s interests.”
Abdulkader Sarhan, a medical student, said other factors that make doctors want to emigrate include poor salaries compared to neighboring countries, the lack of decent hospital institutions, and the failure to formulate health laws that motivate doctors to work.
Mourad Jenan, a physician from Constantine, denounced government’s spending of billions of dollars on the health sector in recent years, “without being able to construct a single hospital with international standards.”
France Is the Top Destination
According to statistics from the Deanship of Algerian Doctors, more than 28,000 Algerian doctors have emigrated in recent years. Of those, 15,000 are in France. The rest are in the United States, Canada, Germany, the Gulf states, and other countries.
“European hospitals attract Algerian doctors through privileges and additional grants in return for service and research. In the last four years, the French government has dropped the requirement of certificate equivalency for Algerian doctors in order to facilitate their move to France.”Larbi Ben Hara
A member of the Deanship of Algerian Doctors
Eighty percent of Algerian doctors who emigrate work in France, Ben Hara said. France is the top choice, he said, “due to the similarities of medical education systems at French and Algerian universities and given the lack of linguistic barriers, as French is the language of instruction at Algerian universities.”
Ben Hara said that “European hospitals attract Algerian doctors through privileges and additional grants they provide in return for service and research. In the last four years, the French government has dropped the requirement of certificate equivalency for Algerian doctors in order to facilitate their move to France.”
Incentives in Germany and the Gulf
But other countries attract Algerian doctors, too. Abdelnour Sarih, of the Algerian Doctors Syndicate, says that over 1,400 Algerian physicians have moved to Germany to work over the past five years.
“The number is expected to rise,” he told Al-Fanar Media, pointing to the German government’s guarantee to cover the full expenses of teaching German to Algerian doctors, to overcome the language barrier.
The Gulf countries also compete, Sarih says, to attract Algerian medical expertise, through major competitions, and attractive salaries, while providing modern and advanced capabilities. Saudi Arabia has managed to attract more than 500 Algerian doctors, he said.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
Amid such a reality, the Deanship of Algerian Doctors and various health-sector unions called on the presidency and the Ministry of Health to intervene, provide doctors with their needs, and motivate them financially and morally while enhancing hospitals’ capabilities.
“An Algerian doctor has to either emigrate to improve his conditions or stay at home and be patient,” said Ben Hara. “Sometimes, they have to take part in protests and strikes that produce nothing but promises.”