A non-EU nurse in the emergency room at Lotti Hospital in Pontedera, in the province of Pisa | Franco Silvi/ANSA
A non-EU nurse in the emergency room at Lotti Hospital in Pontedera, in the province of Pisa | Franco Silvi/ANSA

Three associations in Italy have called on authorities to hire foreign doctors and nurses with regular Italian work permits. The associations argued it's illegitimate to exclude foreign doctors from civil service exams during the coronavirus pandemic.

Three Italian associations -- the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), Lunaria and Italians Without Citizenship -- launched an appeal for applying the regulation that allows for the hiring of foreign doctors and nurses in Italy who have a regular Italian work permit.

The associations said it is illegitimate to exclude these doctors and nurses from civil service exams during the COVID-19 pandemic. "For weeks, health authorities have denounced the lack of doctors and nurses needed for responding to the COVID-19 emergency," the associations said in a statement.

'Cure Italy Decree'

In March 2020, article 13 of the 'Cure Italy Decree,' which has since been converted to a law, stipulates that the hiring of "all citizens from countries not belonging to the European Union, who hold work permits" is permitted in the civil service "for the exercise of health professions and for the qualification as a social-health worker," namely "without prejudice to any other legal limitation."

However, hospital and health department administrations are ignoring this measure and continue to offer civil service exams that, for doctors, require "Italian or EU citizenship."

For other health personnel, i.e. nurses and assistants, the administrations call for the requirements under Article 38 of the unified text for civil service employment, therefore excluding non-EU citizens who aren't on long-term stays.

All of this is happening in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, in Civitavecchia near Rome and in the southern city of Matera. In the northern Piedmont region, all non-EU citizens were excluded from these jobs in full violation of the law currently in effect.

Some 80,000 foreigners with healthcare qualifications

According to the Foreign Doctors in Italy Association (AMSI), there are currently about 77,500 foreign citizens in Italy with healthcare qualifications. This number includes 22,000 doctors and 38,000 nurses as well as physiotherapists, pharmacists, dentists and other healthcare professionals.

However, only 10% of them reportedly manage to obtain jobs in the public health sector.

Regarding doctors, the three associations said the situation was already illogical because of two reasons. On the one hand, jobs that require a director's qualification (therefore also all doctor positions) are supposed to be reserved -- according to the DPCM Decree 174/94 -- for Italian citizens only.

On the other hand, the Consiglio di Stato ("Council of State") already established on more than one occasion that the above-mentioned DPCM is illegitimate due to its conflict with European treaties and must therefore be revised.

Requests to government and parliament

The associations also said that "the issue must be looked at quickly and given a new alignment, which takes into account the contribution that foreign healthcare workers can make in the emergency."

They further called for the "duty of the civil service to guarantee -- in the interest of the collective -- job access to the most capable and deserving, without distinctions of citizenship."

Another demand made by the associations is for the Italian health ministry and the civil service ministry to immediately intervene with the health system entities so that, during the emergency phase, they allow all foreigners holding a work permit to have access to health professions.

In addition, the associations want to make sure that these new rights, if conferred remain even after the emergency period is over. They plan to ask the Italian Parliament to make sure that foreign workers who qualify for these jobs can continue in them once the pandemic is under control. It is, they said, "completely illogical that the possibility for a foreign worker to have a job is limited only to the emergency period," they argue.

 

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