The World Health Organisation says no less than 55 countries are struggling with serious health worker shortages as the latter continue to seek better opportunities in wealthier nations.
They continue to seek better-paid opportunities in wealthier nations that had stepped up efforts to recruit them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to WHO, African nations have been worst hit by the phenomenon, with 37 countries on the continent facing health worker shortages.
It said, “Health worker shortage has threatened their chances of achieving universal health care by 2030 – a key Sustainable Development Goals pledge.’’
The actions of wealthy countries that belong to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development come under scrutiny in the WHO alert, among other regions.
“Within Africa, it’s a very vibrant economy that is creating new opportunities. The Gulf States have traditionally been reliant on international personnel and then some of the OECD high-income countries have really accelerated their recruitment and employment to respond to the pandemic and respond to the loss of lives, the infections, the absences of workers during the pandemic,” the director responsible for health worker policy at WHO, Dr. Jim Campbell, said in a statement on Tuesday.
To help countries protect their vulnerable healthcare systems, WHO has issued an updated health workforce support and safeguards list, which highlights nations with low numbers of qualified healthcare staff.
“These countries require priority support for health workforce development and health system strengthening, along with additional safeguards that limit active international recruitment,” the WHO insisted.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, called on all countries to respect the provisions in the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list.
“Health workers are the backbone of every health system, and yet, 55 countries with some of the world’s most fragile health systems do not have enough and many are losing their health workers to international migration,” he added.
Although many countries do respect existing WHO guidelines on the recruitment of health care workers, the principle is not accepted wholesale, WHO warned.
“What we are seeing is that the majority of countries are respecting those provisions by not actively recruiting from these (vulnerable) countries.
“But there is also a private recruitment market that does exist and we’re looking to them to also reach some of the global standards that are anticipated in terms of their practice and behaviour,” Campbell said.
Mechanisms also exist for governments or other individuals to notify WHO if they are “worried” about the behaviour of recruiters, the WHO official said.