Migration of health workers deepening health system crisis in Asia

Poorly paid and overworked health workers in Asia are increasingly migrating to developed countries to seek better jobs, deepening the crisis in the region's health systems, the World Health Organization said Wednesday. Morale and wages have plummeted as many Asian governments have placed strict limits on the number of health workers and their salaries while also slashing spending on professional education.

Industrialized nations, meanwhile, have failed to produce health professionals and are resorting to international recruitment, according to a report released by the WHO's Western Pacific regional office. "Increasingly, health workers are coming under pressure to 'vote with their feet' and change jobs or emigrate," said the report, released ahead of World Health Day on April 7.

"The mobility of the workforce and employment opportunities available in developed nations has led to a shortage of health professionals in key categories in many developing nations," it said. Peter Cordingley, WHO's regional spokesman, said no precise data are available on the number of health workers migrating from Asia to the developed world, but that health experts are now looking into the phenomenon.

In the Philippines alone, 15,000 nurses leave the country each year to seek jobs overseas, and even doctors are training as nurses so they, too, can join the exodus, he said.

WHO estimates that there's a global shortage of 4.25 million doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and support workers. A total of 57 countries mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia fall below the minimum threshold of 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1,000 people. WHO urged Asian governments to invest in their health systems to attract and retain sufficient personnel while requesting that developed countries adopt responsible recruitment policies in coordination with health ministers and training institutions in countries facing shortages, reports the AP.


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