Healthcare challenge

The Vanishing Country Doctor

DEUTSCHLAND, 23.07.2010, Feature zum Thema: -Landarzt- - Ärztemangel auf dem Land. U.B.z. Landarzt vor einem Fachwerkhaus. [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance/Ulrich Baumgarten ]
The life of a country doctor no longer appeals to many young medical graduates.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    There is a shortage of general medical practitioners in rural areas as doctors flock to the city and new responses are required.

  • Facts


    • One in three general practitioners in Germany is over the age of 60.
    • In 2009, one in 20 practicing physicians worked part-time. Six years later, it was close to one in seven.
    • Since 2014, some municipalities and local health authorities have opened rural practices that employ GPs on a salary.
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Dr. Nicholas Kamerichs is a general practitioner in the small town of Lütjenburg, 30 kilometers east of Kiel in northern Germany. On a typical day, he often makes it home for lunch with his wife and daughter, and is back in the office by 3 p.m. After studying in larger cities, he was happy to land his practice in a small town with a view of the Baltic Sea.

Dr. Kamerichs has seen first-hand the dwindling interest in what appealed to him as an ideal career. When he took over the practice nine years ago there were 13 GPs in Lütjenburg. Now, there are no more than ten. Throughout Germany, doctors in rural areas wanting to retire increasingly complain they cannot find a replacement.

Even in regions that currently have enough doctors, officials are getting worried. Every third GP in Germany is older than 60. A recent study by the AOK, one of Germany’s public health insurers, has shown there is not a general shortage of doctors in Germany. But attracting them to rural areas is a growing problem.

The shortage isn’t just because towns like Lütjenburg can’t compete with the cultural attractions of metropolitan centers. The model of owning your own practice, perhaps jointly with another doctor, no longer appeals to many young doctors.

Part-time and permanent employment is more popular than ever. In 2009, one in 20 practicing physicians worked part-time. Six years later, it was close to one in seven. The number of doctors with their own practice sank by 0.7 percent in 2015, even as the number of salaried physicians rose by nearly 12 percent.

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