Cures for a shortage of African doctors

Sarah Gardner Jan 8, 2008


Scott Jagow: In Ethiopia today, a meeting organized by the World Health Organization. The issue at hand is a shortage of health care workers. The WTO says 57 countries are in a crisis mode with this. Sarah Gardner has more.

Sarah Gardner: The shortage is most acute in sub-Saharan Africa. Take Malawi — that country has about 7,400 HIV/AIDS patients for every one physician. Low pay and poor working conditions have driven many African doctors to jobs abroad.

The WHO says one remedy is “task-shifting.” That means letting lesser-trained workers assume more responsibility, like training those living with HIV to be HIV workers.

Laurie Garrett: So they might be the ones that, for example, administer HIV tests and explain to people the results of their tests.

Laurie Garrett is a health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Garrett: It also brings money into the hands of people with HIV, giving them enough resources to have some dignity and employment.

But Garrett call task-shifting a mere stop-gap measure. Meanwhile, she says rich countries should stop “poaching” doctors from the Third World. Right now, there are more Nigerian doctors in the U.S. than in Nigeria.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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