February 26, 2019
DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Worried about Brexit? Come to Germany where you get better salaries, better weather, tastier food — and a shorter trip for visits home to Poland. That’s a German hospital’s pitch to Polish nurses working in Britain, who are among scores of European workers worried about what will happen to their work permits and right of residence if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on March 29.
The university hospital of Duesseldorf put out the ads in two Polish weekly papers in Britain late last month. It’s more than a friendly Brexit lifeline extended to citizens of a neighboring country: the hospital is in dire need of nursing staff and is hoping to fill that shortage with experienced professionals whose time in Britain may be running out.
“We have already received first inquiries,” Torsten Rantzsch, the director of nursing at the hospital in western Germany, told The Associated Press. He said the ads were deliberately written in a tongue-in-cheek style, but that “we also wanted to offer an alternative to Polish colleagues, namely the security of an EU country.”
Tens of thousands of European Union citizens currently living and working in Britain are concerned about what will happen to their status when the UK leaves the 27-country bloc. With just a month to go before Brexit day, there has been no clarity on their future status — and that uncertainty is worsened by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, 20,000 of the country’s 280,000 nurses have left their home country for Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe. The advertisement features Duesseldorf’s pretty skyline with the city’s landmark TV tower in front of blue skies and the Rhine River in the foreground, with the pitch written in both Polish and German.
The hospital decided to focus its campaign specifically on Poles, because many learn German in school and would be able to fit in quickly, Rantzsch said. “We deliberately kept the advertisement in German … because we wanted to address German-speaking nursing staff,” said Rantzsch, adding that the Duesseldorf university hospital needs to hire 100 additional nurses. Overall there’s a shortage of 70,000 nursing staff in German hospitals.
The hospital has already had good luck turning abroad to fill its shortage of skilled nurses. In 2012, Duesseldorf’s university hospital — and many other hospitals across Germany — started looking for nurses in Spain and other European countries with higher unemployment or lower wages at the time, like Italy, Hungary and Romania.
One of the first international recruits in Duesseldorf, Susana Garcia from Spain, first found out about the opportunity from the newspaper ads. She says she loves her job at the university hospital. “Working conditions here in Germany are super,” the 29-year-old nurse said. “We have full-time contracts even though we’re very young, we’ve been here now for six years.”
Grieshaber reported from Berlin. Vanessa Gera contributed from Warsaw, Poland.