Below is an editorial I wrote for the March issue of Africa Health journal. My understanding is that the international ground is starting to shift towards looking at financial models of support for institutions training health workers to work elsewhere in the world. It is a complex dynamic, but I understand the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) based in Paris has been requested by a number of global health actors to actively look at potential models.
Maybe HIFA members could help with some added thoughts on the subject?
A point I missed in the piece below is that the financial injection to the training institutions would also make them much more attractive to senior diaspora health professionals, who can bring experience, knowledge… and international connections. Many would love to return, but the current resource-poor challenge is just too great. The expertise they could bring would be invaluable.
(Editorial from AH March 2015)
The right to roam
It is interesting to see the WHO Code on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel is back in the news again (see Francis Omaswa’s column on page 7). It was a hard fought campaign that brought it into being in 2010, as several African countries were suffering health system meltdown from huge migrations of their staff heading for pastures new in Europe, the USA, the Middle East or South Africa. At the time, the Code seemed to be of critical importance, and I can recall we hailed its advent strongly in the columns of this journal.
But equally I remember talking about it with health professional friends in different parts of Africa and noticing their guarded reticence towards it. Deep down it was clear that there was a struggle going on between the right to work wherever one wished, and the need to sustain health services at home. I was looking at the issue with one eye, not the two that they were using.
Although hailed initially as a ‘victory for Africa’ it is clear now that my friends were not alone in their uncertainty about the plan. That only one country (out of 47) in the African region of WHO has managed to respond to a request to submit a report to Geneva on progress in implementation of the voluntary code is testament to a wider unease and ambivalence towards the Code.
And yet, as Francis Omaswa predicts, the global health workforce shortages are only going to get more acute.
Maybe it is time for a further rethink? Why I wonder could it not be possible to develop a system whereby all graduates of accredited institutions be tagged with a licence number which references their country and institution. For the first six years (say) of practice this reference number triggers a payment by their employer to their training institution. If on home ground, no payment. But if in Dubai, Durban, or Derby, then a sum would be payable annually. These funds would then help establish the training institution as a centre of excellence, probably help improve the number of trainees they might take in each year, and in turn help to meet the global needs for physicians, nurses and paramedic staff.
Training would become an export. And the quality of the training which is currently under such pressure in many African countries, would rise through the added funding reaching the institution. Maybe we should develop these thoughts further to examine the finer practicalities?
What is increasingly evident is that just stopping people leaving their home country is not a solution to either the home problem, or the global problem. Fresh thinking is needed.
HIFA profile: Bryan Pearson is the publisher of Africa Health, a largely paper-based CME resource for senior health professionals in Africa. He is based near Cambridge, UK. bryan AT fsg.co.uk