Even if you supplement the number of hospital beds and ventilators, one shortage is impossible to complement: qualified staff.
It’s impossible to train medical workers on short notice so, instead, Germany is turning to one untapped resource that many other countries can use: qualified immigrants.
During the 2019 elections in Saxony, the right-wing nationalist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 9.7% of the votes, as the anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic rhetoric won AfD surprisingly many votes.
But now, the medical board in Saxony has turned to immigrants to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Saxony, the heartland of the nationalist , the regional medical board is advertising for migrant doctors to help tackle an expected rise in cases.
Foreign doctors who do not yet have a license to practice medicine are asked for help through an advertising campaign.
Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to some 1 million migrants fleeing war is a very polarizing decision, but in this case, it might yield advantages. Many of them were qualified workers that still struggled to find a job in Germany due to language or cultural differences.
Now, those migrants who have medical training are called to help. According to Reuters, Shadi Shahda, 29, is one migrant medic ready to help. He has already reportedly jumped at the opportunity.
“I am waiting for their call … I was very happy when I saw that I could do something in the country where I am living.”
Shahda has three years of experience as an ENT (ear, nose, throat) medical resident in Syria, but the language exam he needed to take was canceled due to the coronavirus.
The situation Shahda is in is not unique. Thousands of immigrants in Germany have medical qualifications and over 300 have already responded to the ad in Saxony.
It might be wise for other areas to consider similar schemes. The immediate, most acute shortage, is that of safe hospital beds and respiratory ventilators.
But this is not a short fight, it’s a marathon. Health workers, the ones in the first line of action, are our vital assets, and, in addition to protecting them as much as possible, we need to supplement their ranks as much as possible. The US is now recalling retired doctors and easing immigration for any health workers willing to help the country. Immigrants can potentially serve as a valuable pool of qualified health workers.
In Germany, despite cases surging, the case fatality rate remains remarkably low — a very encouraging sign in what is overall a pretty bleak picture.