The salaries of self-employed doctors in Switzerland are around a third higher than previously thought, according to a study by the Federal Office of Public Health. The median wage is CHF257,000 ($258,000).
However, certain specialists can earn considerably more: neurosurgeons, for example, take home a median salary of CHF697,000 and gastroenterologists CHF627,000. Oncologists, anaesthetists, maxillofacial surgeons and radiologists all earn more than CHF500,000.
The median figure marks the point at which half the doctors make more money and the other half make less. It can be a more telling measure than the average, which is distorted by extremely high salaries.
The self-employed medical specialists who earn the least are psychiatrists and psychotherapists for adults (CHF195,000) and children (CHF183,000).
General practitioners, who provide primary health care, are paid a median salary of CHF237,000.
A total of 118 doctors were found to earn more than CHF1 million, although this is probably an underestimate, the authors said.
The studyexternal link is based on income subject to old-age insuranceexternal link from 2009-2014 of almost 8,000 self-employed doctors. It also shows that female medical professionals systematically earn less than their male counterparts. The income gap, allowing for experience and discipline, is 29%.
Previous studies had been carried out into salaries of self-employed medical professionals, but these were criticised for methodological weaknesses.
For example, the increasing proportion of part-time work had not been factored in and the number of doctors assessed was small. In the new study, incomes have been standardised to full-time positions.
The health office says the recent figures are around 30% higher than those previously published.
Room for improvement
santésuisseexternal link and curafuturaexternal link, Switzerland's umbrella organisations for insurers, as well as the umbrella organisation for hospitals Swiss H +external link, welcomed the study's improved transparency.
"A good health system is important for us, but the price is far too high in Switzerland, which is also reflected in the high income of doctors, who are financed by premiums and taxpayers' money," said santésuisse spokesperson Matthias Müller.
However, the Swiss Medical Associationexternal link denounced the study methods as "misleading", pointing out that such very high salaries only apply to a small proportion of doctors overall. The umbrella organisation stated that some 25% of practitioners are not represented in the overall average income value calculated by the Office of Public Health (CHF320,000 per year). These would include some 10,000 medical assistants with a comparatively smaller annual income of CHF100,000 for 56 hours of work per week.