South Africa Seeks to Stem Physician Flow to West
In an effort to retain its "desperately needed doctors," South Africa this week is "going public with its battle" to stop the Canadian government from recruiting South African physicians, the New York Times reports. South African doctors are "fleeing ... by the hundreds" from the nation's high crime rates and "chronically understaffed and underfinanced hospitals," in favor of the stability and prosperity of North America. But South African ambassador to Canada Andre Jaquet says it is "unethical for the West to lure doctors from the developing world, particularly from South Africa, which has too few doctors, and struggles to provide medical care for millions of impoverished people and to cope with the AIDS epidemic." In a letter to provincial health officials, Jaquet said that Canadian recruiting "affected South Africa's ability to reform the poor health infrastructure inherited from our apartheid past." Between 1994 and 1997, 40,000 people emigrated from South Africa, most of whom were skilled workers and many of whom were doctors. Canadian officials estimate that approximately 1,500 South African physicians are now employed in Canada. Jaquet told the Times that such physician emigration "leaves us less prepared to deal with the biblical plague of AIDS that has hit us." But due to its own shortage of doctors, the Canadian medical establishment has "not been terribly sympathetic." Dr. Peter Barrett, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said that South Africa "is pointing the finger of blame in the wrong direction," and that South Africans "should ask themselves why they cannot keep their own doctors." Dr. Martin Vogel, president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association and a South African native, said, "It's the duty of any country to try and ensure that you have a high level of trained professionals to serve the needs of the population. But you cannot do that by closing the door and putting up bars. You have to create an environment where people feel safe, where they can flourish and prosper" (Swarns, New York Times, 2/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.