FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Swine Flu Fallout

The recent scare has served to reveal one of medicine’s great scandals: the systematic plunder of nurses and doctors from the developing world by the U.S. Europe, Canada and Australia. A study by the George Washington University School of Public Health found that 30 percent of the medical workers in Ghana, 41.4 percent in Haiti, and 27.5 percent in Sri Lanka leave their countries to practice in the First World.

There are, for instance, more Malawi doctors practicing in England than there are in their native country. Some 13,000 doctors trained in sub-Saharan Africa are now practicing in the West. The result is that while Africa has 25 percent of the world’s disease burden, it has only 1.3 percent of its health workers.
According the United Nations Migration and Millennium Development Goal, “Poor countries, many of them with the fewest healthcare workers, but the highest infectious disease burdens, are ‘subsidizing’ the healthcare systems of wealthier countries.”

Ghana, for instance, spent $70 million training health workers who then moved to Britain. “In comparison, by recruiting Ghanaian doctors,” Dr. Edward Mills of the British Columbian Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver told Reuters, “The UK saved about 65 million pounds ($130 million) in training costs between 1998 and 2002.”

A 2006 study by the Centre for Global Development found that 17,000 South African medical workers were employed abroad. Yet to deal with spread of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, South Africa should add at least 620,000 nurses.

More than 20 million Africans are infected with HIV, and projections are that from 2006 to 2012 the number of patients per doctor will nearly triple, from 9,000 to 26,000. At the same time, recruitment will reduce the number of doctors from 21,000 to 10,000.

The average U.S. doctor sees about 2000 patients a year.

“The massive outflow of nurses, midwives and doctors from poorer countries to wealthier countries is one of the most difficult challenges posed by international migration,” and the loss of these workers is producing a medical crisis “unprecedented in the modern world,” concludes the UN Population Fund Annual Report.

For decades, Europe and the U.S. have used “fast track” immigration to recruit medical workers, luring them away with vastly better wages and working conditions. A surgical nurse in South Africa makes $13,000 a year. In Britain, the same nurse will earn $66,000 a year.

While the drain on Africa, the Indian sub-continent, and the Caribbean is the greatest, New Zealand also loses 22.6 percent of their medical workers to emigration, and the Philippines 16.7 percent.

“A lot of young Filipinos are going into nursing as preparation for leaving the country to search for a better life,” says Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, a Registered Nurse and member of the California Nurses Association. “As a result of the emigration, lots of [Philippine] hospitals—especially in rural areas—have been forced to close because of a shortage of both doctors and nurses.”

Entry-level nurses in the Philippines earn $2000 a year, compared with $36,000 in the U.S.

In some areas, the critical shortage of nurses may mean there are medical clinics but no medical workers, which means there is no one to administer drugs.

“It is immoral of the United States to ignore the impact of it [immigration of health care workers] on the countries which these nurses come from,” says Vicky Lovell of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.

Nursing has a direct impact on medical outcomes. The death rate among the general population during the 1918-19 pandemic was about 2.7 percent—quite high for flu—but far higher among those who received no nursing.

In his book “The Great Influenza,” author John Barry notes that in 1918-19 public health officials discovered that nurses were even more important than doctors. “Nursing could ease the strain on a patient, keep a patient hydrated, calm, provide the best nutrition, cool the intense fevers. Nursing could give the victim of the disease the best chance to survive.”

But powerful forces are at work encouraging medical workers to immigrate. Health Maintenance Organizations find it is cheaper to recruit nurses from abroad than to improve working conditions and wages for their homegrown workforce. Government agencies—as the study of Ghana demonstrated—save tens of millions of dollars by poaching other country’s medial workers.

Because of the immigration safety valve, medical authorities in the developed world don’t bother to train enough health workers. Britain trains only 70 percent of the doctors it needs, and the U.S. trains only 50 percent of the nurses it needs.

“Immigration is not the only way we can get nurses,” argues Lovell. “Raising wages is easier and more effective.”

A team of international disease experts, which included HIV/AIDS expert Mills, has demanded an end to the practice, going so far as to call it a “crime.” Writing in the British medical magazine The Lancet, the team is calling on developed countries to stop recruiting health workers, and compensate the countries they have plundered by offering training programs, health facilities, and medical schools.

Britain’s National Health Service has agreed to stop recruiting South African doctors and nurses, although it will continue to lure away specialists like neurologists, audiologists and pathologists. However, private medical providers have not joined the Health Services self-imposed recruitment moratorium.

“What we are saying,” Mills told Reuters, “is that if one of these countries that is being systematically poached were to pursue it as a crime, contributing to unrest…then they would have some leg to stand on.”

CONN HALLINAN can be reached at: ringoanne@sbcglobal.net

More articles by:

Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: Usa Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail