NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 20, 2004

Africa is suffering a medical "brain drain" as the continent's trained doctors, nurses and other health care workers leave to practice medicine in Britain, the United States and other wealthy countries, says the New York Times.

  • The number of nurses working in Britain from outside Europe rose from 2,000 in 1994 to 15,000 in 2001.
  • According to President Bush's AIDS coordinator, there are more Ethiopian-trained doctors practicing in Chicago then there are in Ethiopia.

Besides low pay, conditions in most African countries are deplorable for health care providers, says the Times:

  • AIDS and tuberculosis are rampant in Africa, stretching resources and placing large demands on nurses.
  • Lack of adequate equipment and drugs make providing health care difficult, and scarce supplies of rubber gloves put medical workers at a greater risk for infection.

The Times says that preventing emigration of health care workers would simply create an incentive for people in Africa not to enter the medical field in the first place. An alternative would be to reimburse African countries for their supply of health care providers.

In the interim, Britain's National Health Service has refrained from recruiting doctors from other countries without permission from their governments, although private hospitals and nursing homes do. Each doctor that is educated in Malawi and then practices in Britain saves Britain $184,000.

Source: Editorial, "Africa's Health-Care Brain Drain," New York Times, August 13, 2004.


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