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'Spanish nurses wipe backsides in Germany'

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'Spanish nurses wipe backsides in Germany'
Some 20,000 nurses in Spain have lost their jobs in recent years. File photo: Patrick Bernard/AFP
11:58 CET+01:00
The head of Spain's top nursing association said he was "ashamed" that Spanish nurses were leaving for Germany to do menial health care work at a time when Spain itself needs over 100,000 new nurses.

Nurses are "going to Germany to wash bums," said Máximo González Jurado, the President of the Spanish Council of Nurses (CGE) on Monday.

The Germans recruit Spanish nurses "to work in old people's homes doing less qualified work than auxiliary nurses in Spain", he said during a press conference to launch a new report on the perilous state of the nursing profession in Spain.

"We are subsidizing Germany's health system," said the nursing boss.

Government cuts to health — spending fell by 0.5 percent from 2009 to 2011 — have seen some 20,000 nurses in Spain lose their jobs. 

Many have left the country in a bid to find work, and around 5,000 Spanish nurses are thought to be working in Germany according to Spanish nursing union SATSE. 

A large number have also found work in the UK. 

The Local spoke to one Madrid-based nurse who has taken the extreme step of commuting from the Spanish capital to London for around one week a month. 

"There is no work for nurses in Spain," Marta de Frutos told The Local.

"Recently I got four days a month covering someone's maternity leave in Madrid, but the last job before that was a year ago. 

"I'm better off working in London," said the young nurse who lives with her husband but stays with her brother when she is in the UK capital.

"Shift work is far better organized there. And If I book ahead, my flights cost around £80 (€96), and I can earn £230 for a shift in London, so it is worth it."

Marta told The Local about 80 percent of the privately advertised jobs at Madrid's medical college are for jobs in the UK and Germany.    

It's news that will hardly be music to the ears of CGE President González Jurado.

Speaking on Monday, he lamented the diminishing number of nursing jobs in Spain at a time when Spain needs around 108,000 new nurses just to meet European nursing level averages. 

Spain has 528 nurses per 100,000 inhabitants according to 2013 figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). The European Union average is 759.  

That puts Spain in 20th place in Europe.

The country's medical field is also top heavy with the ratio of nurses to doctors being 57.12 percent to 42.88 percent.

By contrast, in Finland — which the WHO considers a shining example of how to run a health system  — there are more than nine nurses for every doctor.

Finland also tops the nursing level rankings with  2,356 nurses per 100,000 people. In the UK, that number is 947.

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