LFMI analyses restrictions that are imposed on medical practice of foreign specialists in Lithuania

Back in 1998, the Lithuanian Free Market Institute (LFMI) carried out an in-depth analysis of employment regulations that exist in Lithuania. As part of the analysis, LFMI examined employment restrictions that are applied to foreign citizens. In Lithuania, hiring of foreigners is a multi-level process that requires a multitude of approvals from various governmental institutions. The procedures are complicated, costly, and bureaucratic.

Health care is one of the areas that are plagued by such regulations. Foreign doctors are not allowed to provide medical services in Lithuania for commercial purposes. Foreign specialists are subject to many unjustified, discriminating requirements as well as special restrictions.

Any individual who wishes to engage in medical practice must obtain a license. According to the law, foreign doctors are allowed to obtain a temporary license for medical practice in Lithuania. Such licenses allow foreign specialists to render health care services for a limited period of time and only for teaching (unpaid) or charity purposes.

A temporary license can be granted only to a person who has a permission for temporary residence in Lithuania. This requirement is illogical and ungrounded, because supervision of medical practice and the right to reside in Lithuania are two different things. A temporary residence permission only creates conditions to exercise the right granted by the license. It is not a criterion that defines medical qualifications.
In addition to that, the Ministry of Health Care has a right to establish additional requirements to non-residents. This creates opportunities for arbitrary actions by local officials and increases uncertainty.

To obtain a license, a person is also required to have knowledge of the official language according to government-adopted levels of language proficiency. This requirement is unjustified, discriminating and based on government coercion.

The said regulations cause a whole range of problems for doctors, health care patients, and medical businesses. Many foreign specialists are discouraged from starting medical practices in Lithuania. Given that Lithuanian doctors are still unable to render certain medical services and the quality of services is in some cases still inadequate, patients are either forced to content themselves with low-quality treatments or to travel abroad.

The restrictions placed on foreign specialists protect the privileges of local doctors, rather than defend patients’ rights to effective, needed health treatment. They show that the law shields local specialists from foreign competition and by doing so impedes the rise of medical culture, the development of medical businesses, and the improvement of the quality of medical services.

Also, these limitations run counter to the principle of free movement of labour enshrined in the EU legal code (acquis communautaire).

Based on analysis of the Law on Medical Practice, LFMI formulated and submitted to decision-making authorities a package of proposals to eliminate regulations that impede the provision of medical services by foreign specialists as well as to allow them to engage in medical practice for commercial purposes.