Bulletin #48: How to stop the brain drain?

This fortnight  

Despite the critical role that health workers play in keeping communities healthy, the world is still grappling with a severe shortage of trained medical personnel. This problem has been particularly acute in the Global South, where underfunded healthcare systems and aggressive recruitment drives from high-income countries have contributed to a chronic shortage of health workers.

In this issue, we take a closer look at the latest update of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Support and Safeguards List and the ripple effects it has caused in countries like Nigeria and the United Kingdom. Low-income countries are resorting to emigration bans to address the health worker shortage, but this will not be enough.

In order to provide concrete answers to the ongoing crisis, countries in the Global South need to be given enough resources and space to strengthen their public health systems. This is the case in Zimbabwe, where health workers are facing an uphill battle to provide quality care in a health system that is underfunded and understaffed. Zimbabwe's health workers are caught between an ailing public sector, under pressure from sanctions, and migration limitations.

Health workers in East Europe are also recruited by core EU countries, leaving gaps in hospitals and primary health care institutions at home. The European office of WHO recently issued guidance on addressing the health workers’ shortage, but the document does not take into consideration the specific position of East European countries.

While their nurses and doctors are being poached by Western neighbors, East European countries still have a different legacy to rely upon. We met with Matthew Read from the International Research Centre DDR (IF DDR) to hear more about socialist health systems in Europe and the lessons they might teach us today.

In Latin America and India, we are witnessing attempts to make health care more accessible. In Colombia, the Petro-Márquez government is considering a major overhaul of the health system, breaking with the previous neoliberal model. In India, the Patent Office ruled against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson in an attempt to evergreen tuberculosis drug bedaquiline. We bring more on both cases in Spanish.

Health worker shortage in Global South cannot be resolved by tepid mechanisms and bans

Nigeria’s House of Representatives is considering a bill which would block young physicians from emigrating right after university. The proposal points to the widespread problem of mass emigration of health workers from the Global South

Between an ailing public sector and migration curbs, Zimbabwe’s health workers left with few options

Zimbabwe has announced plans to criminalize the foreign recruitment of its health workers. Over 4,000 health workers have left the country since 2021, as the public health system continues to face issues of low pay and lack of infrastructure

A brutal system replaced socialist health care in Europe

Matthew Read, researcher at the IF DDR, talks to the People’s Health Dispatch about similarities between East Germany’s and Yugoslavia’s socialist health systems and the lessons to be learned from these systems

WHO Europe’s health workforce guidance doesn’t protect East European health systems

A recent health workforce declaration by WHO’s European region misses on the opportunity to protect East European health systems from health workers’ brain drain

Data speaks


El sistema de salud en Colombia podría ver por fin cambios que pongan a las personas por delante del lucro

Un intenso debate rodea la propuesta de reforma a la salud presentada por el gobierno de Gustavo Petro y Francia Márquez, mientras el negocio de los seguros privados de salud y los conservadores intentan bloquearla.

Sí, podemos impedir que las patentes obstaculicen el tratamiento de la tuberculosis

Un día antes del Día Mundial de la Tuberculosis, la Oficina de Patentes de la India rechazó la solicitud del gigante farmacéutico Jannsen de prorrogar la patente del medicamento bedaquilina.

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