Healthy immigration?

You rightly point out that “the supply of medical staff reflects global movements of labour” (No 262, Databank, July 2007). But many of us might disagree with your upbeat headline: “Healthy immigration”. In a report published in 2005, the Royal African Society argues that while recruitment of African medical professionals has shored up western health services, it has left the health sector in sending countries facing permanent crisis or even complete collapse.

Take Malawi for instance. The country is one of the most severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, yet according to the Royal Society, there are more Malawian medical personnel in Birmingham, England than in Malawi itself. Nobody would argue that African doctors and nurses should not have the right to emigrate (apart from anything else they and their home countries can benefit from the experience, and salaries, gained abroad).

But the sending nations have invested heavily in training these professionals, and the OECD countries could do much more to ensure that the benefits of this investment are not lost, e.g. by financing schemes to train and retain staff in their home countries.

Patrick Larmor
Edinburgh, UK

©OECD Observer No 264/265, December 2007-January 2008

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