In Africa, an Exodus of Nurses

Thousands of African nurses have migrated in recent years due to a combination of low pay and difficult working conditions in Africa and increased demand in developed countries with aging populations. Unfortunately, the exodus of African nurses has further deteriorated the already low quality of African health care systems that are strapped by insufficient funding and an AIDS epidemic. African leaders decry this brain drain not only because of its effects on health care in their country, but because oftentimes it is the African governments that pay to educate the outbound health workers. South Africa, for example, has spent approximately $1 billion educating health care workers who eventually migrated abroad. Some aid donors such as Britain and the Global Fund recognize this trend and have pledged additional funding to help African countries retain their health workers. Indeed, registered nurses at Lilongwe Central hospital in Malawi, a country particularly affected by loss of healthcare workers, have said that they would consider staying in Africa if their current salary of about $1,900 a year were doubled or tripled. Even in such an extreme case, however, that same nursing position with Britain’s National Health Service offers starting pay of about $31,000, meaning that the draw to emigrate could remain. In the meantime, the crisis facing African healthcare goes unabated, but not unrecognized: “If I leave," asks a pediatric nurse in Malawi, "who will look after the patients when I’m gone?” –YaleGlobal

In Africa, an Exodus of Nurses

Celia W. Dugger
Monday, July 12, 2004

Click here for the original article on The New York Times website.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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