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The ‘theft’ of medical staff from the developing world


Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 15 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 15 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and write about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

So, given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views may well have changed in the last 15 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

There’s a very sobering piece in today’s Independent, with regard to an investigation they’ve conducted into recruitment of medical staff from abroad – particularly Ghana.

At the main Komfo-Anokye hospital in [Kumasi, Ghana] … Hundreds of patients besiege the accident and emergency unit each morning, staffed by a single doctor and a handful of nurses, and serving a city of more than one million.

A critical shortage of medical staff who have been lured away to work in hospitals in Britain and the US is crippling Ghana’s health service. The rich countries of the West are systematically stripping the developing world of their doctors and nurses in one of the worst acts of global exploitation in modern times.

The hospital is in a critical state … Almost 1,000 nurses and 150 doctors have left Ghana for the UK in the past six years, and the flow is accelerating. Hundreds more have gone to the US, Australia and other countries in a mass migration fuelled by the worldwide demand for medical staff.

At 3pm on a Thursday, there were still more than 100 people waiting to be seen in the accident and emergency unit crammed on to the blue benches under a high roof. A young man stripped to the waist lay full length on the concrete floor, unattended, victim of a mob beating after he had been caught pickpocketing.

As I stopped to talk to Ajala, the mother of Fawuzani, a bright-eyed six-month-old boy with a fractured skull, the injury clearly visible in his misshapen scalp, others crowded round thrusting X-rays at me, begging me to examine their children. A young mother in a red T-shirt pushed her son forward who had large swellings on his head which she described as boils. Another woman with pleading eyes stood her four-year-old in front of me and lifted his T-shirt to reveal a grotesquely swollen scrotum.

The whole article makes for very moving reading, and it seems to suggest that this government’s present policies on not recruiting from countries where the medical staff are desperately needed is simply not working, and clearly needs to be re-examined. But, of course, refusing to hire such staff severely limits their individual prospects in life – surely it is only fair to allow these people to get the best job for the best pay of which they are capable of obtaining.

Clearly, in an ideal world, we would pay medical staff in Ghana the same as in Britain through our international aid budgets, but that’s simply not a practical solution as it would obviously be far too prohibitively expensive – we can’t even seem to afford a decent wage for some nurses in this country! The other ‘ideal’ solution is to create enough medical staff to cover our own needs – but that’s unlikely to happen too, as we’re not training enough, and people perceive many medical jobs to be unattractive. So what is the solution? I can’t think of one… but surely our elected representatives, supposedly some of the greatest minds of their generation, should be able to…

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