Lack of on-board doctors: territorial continuity and holidays at risk for many Italians. Assarmatori, Confitarma and Medibordo alarm

The incoming summer season is at risk; many ships will not be able to reach their destinations because they will be forced to remain in port due to on board doctors’ shortage. The alarm has been raised by the shipowners’ Associations (Confitarma and Assarmatori) together with the National Association of Shipboard Doctors (Medibordo).


The professional figure of the ship’s doctor is, in fact, included in the “minimum fitting-out table” of passenger ships – in the minimum number of compulsory professional qualifications on board, for instance, in order to be able to sail. Therefore, it is necessary and unavoidable to carry out maritime connection services.


For years the Shipowners’ Associations have been complaining about the structural lack of such professional figures caused by incomprehensible barriers that impeded the entrance of this specific profession. Moreover, the system imposed a system of rules which, as designed, can no longer guarantee the effective organization of the on-board health service and consequently fulfil the purposes for which it was set up at the end of the 19th Century.


This structural shortage has now been compounded by the serious health emergency caused by the Pandemic, which has rightly forced the Government to concentrate all its efforts on the current vaccination campaign.


Today, shipping companies are encountering insuperable difficulties in finding doctors available for embarkation and, in many cases, they are not be able to ensure ships departure.


If this situation continues, it is evident that it will damage the entire tourism sector, which has already been hardly hit by the crisis. As a result, island residents will suffer considerable inconvenience, since their constitutionally guaranteed right to “territorial continuity” will be violated.


Since several months, shipowners’ associations and the National Association of Ship’s Doctors have represented the serious situation to all competent institutions, pointing out the extraordinary difficulties that would be encountered during the summer season. They also have requested the activation of exceptional recruitment measures, similar to those already implemented by the Government with the aim to reach the correct number of medical personnel – needed for the current vaccination campaign.


The Associations are aware of the important and challenging work in which the Institutions are involved, in order to ensure the primary interest of public health. However, the same Associations urgently call for the adoption of targeted measures to deal with this inefficient situation, which entails the real risk of triggering “an emergency within the emergency”.


Therefore, the Associations hope for the vital adoption of the necessary derogations to this inefficient system and the concomitant convening of the round table on maritime health, already set up by the Ministry of Health, to overcome this anti-historical regulation – which must necessarily be modified.