WHO Meeting Addresses Health Worker Shortage in Developing Countries
Representatives from more than 50 European governments met Wednesday at the opening of a World Health Organization meeting aimed at addressing health worker shortages in developing countries, AFP/Independent Online reports. According to WHO, there is a global shortage of more than 4.3 million health workers, which mostly is affecting developing countries.
In 57 countries, 36 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, serious health worker shortages are hindering treatment programs for tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as vaccination programs for children and prenatal care. In addition, the migration of health workers from the countries with the worst shortages has increased substantially over the past three decades. WHO research indicates that in the world's 30 leading industrial nations, an average of 18% of the physicians and 11% of nurses are foreign-born.
"With ageing populations and the increasing burden of disease, we know that demand for health workers will increase, meaning emigration trends are likely to persist," former Irish President Mary Robinson, who is part of the Global Health Workforce Alliance, said. She added that it is "crucial" for European countries "to adopt an ethical approach to their health worker needs and thereby reduce the negative impacts of migration on health systems in developing countries."
WHO spokesperson Liuba Negru said, "Health workers have the right to travel and seek a better life, but people in countries hard-hit by emigration also have the right to health." She added, "Technical solutions must be found to balance the right to migrate with the right for all to have access to a well-functioning health system." Negru said that countries must "know what is needed ahead in terms of training, rather than relying on immediate needs and then 'buying up' personnel to fill the gaps." Meanwhile, "[s]upplier" countries "need to train enough personnel, but not to train simply for export," Negru added (AFP/Independent Online, 6/25).