Government role in medicine goes under the knife

Universities want the state to focus on specialised medical training Keystone

A Swiss educational body is urging the government to relinquish its role in the teaching of medicine in higher education institutions.

This content was published on February 2, 2004 - 16:16

The Rectors’ Conference of Swiss Universities has put forward a series of proposals in a bid to reform the medical sector and attract more students to the discipline.

The panel said its main focus was to disentangle the responsibilities for medical training, which are currently shared by the government and universities.

The document, dubbed “University Medicine 2008”, also aims to streamline the complex web of medical institutions in Switzerland's universities, hospitals and other medical centres.

It says medical research and scientific training should be the sole responsibility of universities, while professional and specialist training should remain under the control of the federal authorities.

This would free up hospitals to focus solely on medical treatment.

The proposals, which come as Swiss medical authorities are considering other reforms to the sector, have been welcomed by the State Secretariat for Science and Research.

“The problems that the rectors have highlighted are real, although they are not new,” Gérard Escher of the Secretariat told swissinfo.

“However, these proposals only reflect the opinion of the universities. In order to create lasting reforms, we need a platform where all the people concerned can discuss the issue.”

Bologna Directive

The panel timed its proposals to coincide with the introduction of the Bologna Directive, which aims to harmonise the length of degrees in European universities.

Under the reforms, due to be implemented in Swiss universities by 2005, medical graduates would be awarded a Masters, rather than a “Dr med”, qualification.

The shift effectively removes the role of the state in setting medicine examinations. It also abolishes the set quota on the number of medical students.

“Medicine will have to face new and more complex challenges in the future,” the panel said. “This trend demands new reforms in the teaching of medicine and medical research.”

It added that these reforms would make Switzerland more competitive internationally.

More transparency

The committee, which presented its findings to interior ministry and public education directors on Monday, said the lack of uniformity and coordination between Switzerland’s five medical faculties was also having in a knock-on effect on finances.

Separating the various disciplines, the panel claims, would lead to more financial transparency. For example, the sharing of training costs between university hospitals and medicine faculties would become more straightforward, it said.

“It is time to separate the cost of medical care and the costs of training,” said Peter Suter, vice-rector of the University of Geneva.

The medical sector is also affected by other reforms, such as a new law on medical university professions, and health insurance reforms.


In brief

The Rectors Conference of Swiss Universities said its main focus was to disentangle the responsibilities for medical training, which are shared by the government and universities.

“University Medicine 2008”, calls on the federal authorities to give up responsibility for scientific training and focus on further education programmes for doctors.

It also claims medical research should be the sole responsibility of the universities,

Further, specialist training, meanwhile, should remain under the control of the federal authorities.

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