Medical experts are warning that public health services in Spain could face a crisis as doctors in key specialities retire in the next few years and not enough new medics are ready to step in.
Specialist areas affected could include family doctors, pediatricians, anaesthetists, casualty medics and traumatology specialists, as well as other areas, say insiders.
The problem arises from cutbacks in recruitment during the financial crisis over the last decade, meaning there is not enough new blood in the pipeline. For a few years after 2012, only one vacant place in ten was covered with a new staff member.
However local representatives of medical staff say that the problem in Andalucía goes back to before the financial crisis. "Since 2007, we're been warning that there would be a shortage of qualified personnel," said Juan José Sánchez Luque, president of the Malaga medics association.
He added that there is a fairly big private sector in the Costa del Sol area and that a large number of recently qualified newcomers have chosen to take that route, rather than the instability of short-term contracts in the public health system.
"There are recently qualified GPs that would rather work in the accident and emergency department of a private hospital than in a health centre in the Malaga area, due to the poor state of primary care."
He explained that in order to make primary care more attractive, contracts would have to be more stable and working conditions improved.
He went on to call for working practices to be made easier so medics can combine work in the public sector with the private sector and that efforts should be made to persuade those who have left to work in other parts of Spain, or other countries, to come back to Andalucía.
The president of SMM, the Malaga medics union, Antonio Martín Noblejas, said that specialists that have been working for a while in the regional health service, "are fed up and want to get out of public health care."
He said that the problem was particularly acute in local hospitals and rural health centres. "Doctors prefer to work in a large, general hospital where there are more resources and they can grow professionally."