Lack of medical workers plagues developing countries
By Kavita Chandran and Tan Ee Lyn
BANGALORE/HONG KONG (Reuters) - When her baby turned blue, Nivetha Biju rushed the child to the emergency room of an Indian hospital and watched helplessly as the baby lost consciousness because the nurses on duty had no idea what to do.
Eventually a doctor saved the baby's life, but many patients are not so lucky in India and in other developing countries where a scarcity of doctors and trained nurses means there is often no helping hand in times of need.
"Health systems (in developing countries) are on the brink of collapse due to the lack of skilled personnel," said Ezekiel Nukuro, an official with the World Health Organization.
"In some countries, deaths from preventable diseases are rising and life expectancy is dropping," he said.
The health crisis in developing countries is, some experts say, being exacerbated by the West as countries relax stringent immigration regulations to attract doctors and nurses from less developed countries to boost their own flagging health systems while saving money on expensive training.
The consequences of this "brain drain" are grave as it leaves gaping holes in the healthcare systems of developing countries where diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria run rampant and children die daily from diarrhea.
Aid agencies have warned that a European Union "blue card" scheme to attract highly skilled migrants like hospital workers, which was given initial backing by ministers this month, will worsen the already debilitating brain drain.
Africa, with a quarter of the world's disease burden but only 3 percent of its health care workers, is the worst affected region. International disease experts called earlier this year for the poaching of African health workers to be viewed as an international crime. Continued...