Nurses' and doctors' leaders have called on the UK Government to tackle the "poaching" of overseas healthcare workers, at next month's G8 summit.
They say staff migration from developing nations is killing millions and compounding poverty.
Sub-Saharan African countries are some of the worst hit by the "brain-drain".
The World Health Organization estimates that one million more healthcare workers are needed in these countries if they are to meet basic health goals, such as reducing childhood and maternal mortality.
[BBC News - Jun 17, 2005]
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary gives 2 definitions for the term "poaching":
-- one is literally "to put into a bag," andI think both definitions connote something dire and dreadful. And dire and dreadful, it certainly is, for us here.
the other is to "cook in simmering liquid."
The Brits need not look as far as the Saharan desert to get a glimpse of the problem --- it is also happening here in the Philippines. Consider the following facts:
- ∗ In the last 10 years, the Philippines exported close to 90,000 nurses overseas.
- ∗ In the last four years, 3,500 doctors left the country to take on nursing posts abroad.
- ∗ The number 1 course choice here is now Nursing. I have friend lawyers, engineers, and yes, doctors who are all shifting to nursing to work abroad.
- ∗ The Philippines is now exporting more nurses than it is producing, resulting in substandard patient care and a real crisis in hospitals.
- ∗ Migrant health workers are still predominantly female, meaning more families are losing their traditional caregivers --- the wives, mothers, and sisters. According to a 2004 Asian Development Bank report, 65 percent of Filipino workers overseas are already women.
- ∗ Because of equal opportunity in employment (something non-existent here) abroad, age is not a hindrance to working, and more senior doctors and nurses opt for retirement to study nursing and work abroad. This leaves an unwanted vacancy in health personnel in hospitals especially in the provinces.
- ∗ About 10 percent of the Philippines' 2,500 hospitals have closed down in the past 3 years mainly because of the loss of doctors and nurses to jobs overseas.
- ∗ Next to India, the Philippines is already the second largest source of doctors in hospitals abroad. The country also supplies 25 percent of all overseas nurses worldwide.
- ∗ The preferred country of destination is the United States because of the possibility of acquiring U.S. citizenship and all its privileges. But 57 percent of Filipino nurses abroad are in Saudi Arabia and only 14 percent are in the United States, while 12 percent are in the United Kingdom.
- ∗ PGH, the country’s premier government hospital, is also seeing an exodus, with up to a quarter of its 2,000-nurse workforce leaving in the last few years. While it used to accept only the top graduates of the country’s nursing schools, it can no longer afford to stick to such standards. Now, makes the minimum passing grade, an apparently desperate PGH will take the applicant.
- ∗ About 5,500 doctors are now enrolled in 45 nursing schools in courses that were tailor-made for them. Two thousand doctors have already taken up the Nursing Board Exams, topping the test in 2003 and 2004. In 2004, the topnotcher in the medical board exam announced his plans to work overseas as a nurse.
- ∗ It is no longer hip and cool to become a doctor here. Of the 39 medical schools in the country, three have ceased operating because of steeply declining enrollment. The Iloilo Doctors College of Medicine, for instance, reported a 74-percent decrease in enrollees.
Reasons for this mass migration of our health workers include the prevailing political instability, widespread corruption, and all-too-important financial aspect.
A nurse working in the UK for 6 months can earn as much as P500,000 (half a million pesos). A nurse in the US can get a signing bonus anywhere from to .
Here, nurses in the provinces get about P2,000 monthly (). In government hospitals, nurses get P9,000 monthly (), and in private hospitals, it could go down to P4,000 (). Under Republic Act 9173, an entry-level nurse should get about P13,300 a month (). The key word "should" is most likely a joke. This law is not properly enforced.
Bottomline is that the aging population in western countries will increase in the next 5 to 10 years, and demand for nurses and doctors from developing countries like the Philippines will continue to rise.
What will we do?
Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, executive director of the National Institutes of Health-Philippines and former Secretary of Health, has proposed definitive Strategic Solutions to the problem. Sadly, the government is not responding as quickly as it should.