[Survey of rheumatologists in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia regarding the occupational situation and activities in further education: no way out of the undersupply of rheumatological care].Z Rheumatol. 2019 Jun; 78(5):479-485.ZR
Many regions in the middle of Germany have a deficit in specialized rheumatological care. A survey was undertaken to investigate whether the regional capacities for rheumatological advanced training are sufficient to provide an adequate number of rheumatologists in the future.
All 91 rheumatologists registered in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia received a questionnaire that was sent back by 66% of the recipients (23 responses from Saxony, 19 from Saxony-Anhalt, 18 from Thuringia). Of the rheumatologists 41 were in private practice, 19 worked in an inpatient department and the mean duration of professional activity was 18 years.
Over the last decade the number of patients treated by rheumatologists in private practices increased from 1200 to 1500 per quarter year (p < 0.001), whereas the number of first consultations rose from 100 to 130 per quarter year (p = 0.06). The waiting time for a first consultation rose from 8 to 11 weeks (p = 0.01), 32% of the responders indicated that the conditions for outpatient treatment had either improved or had remained constant during the last 10 years, whereas 60% reported a mild or marked deterioration and 48% stated that the number of rheumatologists had decreased within the same time frame. Only 20% indicated that they had a definite successor in the practice after retirement. All inpatient departments also had an outpatient office. During the last 10 years, the number of consultations per quarter year decreased from 1100 to 700 (not significant), while the waiting time doubled from 6 to 12 weeks (rounded mean). Of the rheumatologists in private practice eight are currently entitled to provide advanced education in rheumatology, with a median training period of 18 months; however, none of the responding physicians had actually brought assistant doctors to the final examination during the last decade and only one prospective rheumatologist was currently completing training in a private practice setting. Only 6 out of 12 inpatient rheumatological facilities are entitled to educate rheumatologists over the whole training period, 5 facilities were not involved in training at all and 7 indicated that they lacked applications for rheumatology training. During the last 10 years, 37 rheumatologists completed the training of which 18 went into private practice, 8 worked as general practitioners and 29 remained in the region of their initial training.
Given the increase in the number of outpatients served, the volume of training activities in rheumatology is hardly sufficient to improve the deficit of rheumatological care in the middle of Germany.