Bertrand Vuilleumier, head of the hospital association in canton Vaud, saluted these employees for their “tireless commitment to taking care of our fellow citizens, sometimes more than eight hours a day, and very often to the detriment of their own family life”.
Vuilleumier spoke ahead of the nationwide referendum on September 27th which seeks to limit the number of foreign workers coming to Switzerland from the EU.
One of the arguments used by the supporters of the measure, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, is that foreigners take jobs away from the Swiss.
However, Vuilleumier refuted these claims, saying that “without cross-border workers, our hospitals would not be functioning”.
For instance, more than 2,300 nurses from France work in Geneva, constituting nearly two-thirds of the total for the profession working in the canton.
At Geneva’s university hospital (HUG) alone, 60 percent of nurses and 9 percent of doctors are cross-border workers.
“Out of around 5,200 caregivers, about 3,200 come from France,” said HUG’s spokesperson, Nicolas de Saussure.
At the nearby Genolier clinic in Vaud, 63 percent of the nursing staff are cross-border employees commuting from France.
Cross-border medical workers are just as essential in Ticino, which shares a long border with Italy. About 120 doctors and 500 nurses employed in the canton’s health sector are daily commuters from the nearby Italian regions.
In Basel, which straddles a border with both France and Germany, over 2,000 daily commuters come to work in the canton’s hospitals from the two countries.
Although the biggest influx of medical personnel is in these three cantons, other border areas and regions in proximity to borders also rely on frontier workers to staff their hospitals.
At the Neuchâtel Hospital Network, for example, 60 percent of the nursing staff come from France. In Jura, 30 percent of the medical and nursing staff live in neighbouring France as well.
In all, more than 332,000 cross-border commuters from France, Italy, Germany and Austria are employed in various sectors in Switzerland, according to recent official statistics.