Federal Council backtracks on quality of physicians

Arzt mit Stetoskop
Not all physicians are required to provide proof of continued Swiss education. (Image: O-Marketing / unsplash)

Switzerland wanted to put a bar on new physician licensing. But this backfired and it is being revised – with an almost funny justification.

To increase the quality and cost-effectiveness of the services they provide, new licensing requirements for physicians came into effect in Switzerland on Jan. 1, 2022.

Accordingly, those physicians must have worked for at least three years at a Swiss postgraduate training center in order to be able to bill the compulsory health insurance (OKP) in their requested specialty.

Government in agreement

In this regard, however, parliament is considering the introduction of a provision that would allow the cantons to grant certain exceptions to this obligation in the event of an undersupply of physicians. And the Federal Council now agrees, as it announced today, Wednesday.

Help for peripheral areas

In May 2022, the Committees for Social Security and Health (SGK) of the National Council (SGK-N) had submitted a parliamentary initiative that provides for an exemption from the admission requirement.

The aim of the proposal is to relax the required rule of three years of practice that physicians must fulfill in order to avoid the risk of underuse in certain specialties and in certain regions.

Pressing school desks

In its report of the end of November 2022, the SGK-N proposed to urgently introduce such an exemption and to limit it to the specialties of general internal medicine, general practitioner, pediatrics and adolescent medicine, child/adolescent psychiatry and psychotherapy.

It is not clear why a specialist from Germany, who wants to escape the shortage of health care in his country, has to then spend three years in Switzerland in order to be able to bill under basic insurance.

Goodbye patient safety?

The Federal Council is now supporting this proposal to soften the criteria and is thus backpedaling on the regulation that has just come into force.

The justification for the relaxation, however, is almost comical. Originally, the official line on the measures was, “The new requirements help ensure public health, patient safety and quality assurance of the Swiss healthcare system.”

However, the Federal Council is now suddenly in favor of the changes in physician licensing for the OKP because the exemption provision is ‘temporary’ and only applies to four medical specialties.

Explanation guilty

The quality of service provision would not be fundamentally called into question by the adjustments, it was said. However, the Federal Council did not explain why continuing Swiss education should suddenly become obsolete for those four important specialties.

This means that Switzerland should have introduced the new regulations in a weakened form. On the one hand the cantons can, in any case, decide much better locally whether they want to admit this doctor or that doctor into their region at all.

And on the other hand, this shortage of doctors in some regions of Switzerland has not just suddenly arisen since yesterday.


Federal Council backtracks on quality of physicians

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