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03.12.2005 General News

Brain Drain Still a Problem

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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Available statistics indicate that 12,365 health professionals left the country in search of greener pastures between the year 1993 and 2002.

Out of this professionals were 630 medical doctors, 410 pharmacists, 83 laboratory technicians and 11,325 nurses including auxiliaries, all trained with the country's already limited resources.

In the year 2002 alone, the country lost 70 doctors, 77 pharmacists and 214 nurses to the western world.

This was disclosed by Dr M. George, the World Health Organization (WHO) country representative, who said the phenomenon was due to the pressing urge by those health professionals to further their career or improve their economic or social situations.

Speaking at a workshop on development criteria for minimum standards in medical and dental schools in Accra, Dr George indicated that the immigration theory made them realize that some factors prompted these professionals to migrate from their poor countries to developed ones where they could better their lives.

He mentioned insufficient employment, lower pay, unsatisfactory working conditions, poor infrastructure and technology, social status and recognition and repressive governments as factors that accounted for the situation, pointing out that some 'pull factors" in those wealthy countries systematically attract physicians.

Such factors, he said, included training opportunities, higher living standards, better practice conditions and more sophisticated research conditions.

He further noted that based on analysis of Ministry of Health (MOH's) Medium Term HR Strategies and Plans (2003-2006), the total number of those employed in the health sector was 26,193, including specific health staff and 11,870 non-health staff, noting that among the health staff were 5,924 auxiliary nurses, 664 doctors, 442 medical assistants, 2,161 midwives and 4,320 professional nurses.

Dr. George emphasized that though it would be in the right direction, developing a minimum standard for medical and dental practitioners would be a fruitless effort unless it is linked with adequate measures to curb the persistent migration of personnel of the noble profession from the country to advance countries, in search of better remuneration and working conditions.

He noted also, that the ethics of health professionals' migration from their poor country to rich ones is complicated by the competition of legitimate interest.

According to him, it becomes an advantage to the poor country when these health professionals return to apply their skills after receiving training abroad.

He added that the emigrants of all the social classes from the poor countries typically send funds home to their relatives, although Sub Saharan African remittances of at least USD 5 billion, comprise the lowest remittances.

He further noted that individuals, after benefiting from public funds for their medical training are sending their remittances home to private parties with no direct gain for the health or educational systems.

On his part, the Chairman of the Medical and Dental Council, Professor P.K Nyame, urged all to establish mutual respect and make the good of the country a common agenda while expressing individual or institutional wishes and ambitions.

He expressed the Medical and Dental Council's desire to initiate a consultative process between relevant institutions like National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE), the National Accreditation Board, the Medical and Dental Council and the medical and dental schools, and "the outcome should be salutary for all, even for government planning and financing."