Developing Countries Face Shortage of Medical Workers Trained to Treat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB, Reuters Reports
October 1, 2008
Many developing countries are facing a shortage of medical workers -- leaving health care gaps in nations with high HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis burdens -- Reuters reports.
Ezekiel Nukuro, an official with the World Health Organization, said that many developing countries are facing an increase in deaths from preventable diseases and a decrease in life expectancy. He added that the health systems in these countries are "on the brink of collapse due to the lack of skilled personnel." According to Reuters, some experts say the situation has worsened because of new immigration regulations in Western nations that allow medical workers from developing countries to migrate abroad for work. Some aid organizations have expressed concern that a proposed European Union "blue card" scheme, which in September received initial backing from ministers, would lead to a further migration of health care workers from developing countries.
Experts have said there "is no easy solution" to address brain drain, but retention strategies may reduce the problem, Reuters reports. "It would be impossible to solve or stop migration of health workers," Nukuro said, adding that "strong political and international commitment, innovative strategies ... partnerships and alliances and long-term investments" are crucial in retaining health care workers. WHO in a July report recommended that international aid to Africa should go towards increasing physician salaries and improving recruitment and training of medical workers. The report also suggested the use of "telemedicine" to connect African hospitals with laboratories and experts abroad through the Internet and telephones. In India, efforts have been made to reduce the burden on physicians by training housewives to provide medical advice and administer fever medicine, oral rehydration tablets and rapid diagnostic kits for malaria and pregnancy. Naresh Dayal, India's secretary of health, said this strategy is a "small intervention but it will have a big impact on reducing maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates." Similar programs are being implemented in some African countries, especially in rural areas, according to Reuters (Chandran/Tan, Reuters, 9/30).
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