Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Malawi: nurses leaving, seeking better prospects

The "brain drain" story is nothing new. But the numbers are still stunning.
Lilongwe Central should have 532 nurses but has only 183. Malawi is suffering a disastrous exodus of trained nurses. It has lost 211 since 2002, 173 of them to Britain. Fewer than 2,200 are left in all of Malawi's public hospitals - barely a third of the established number - serving a population of 12 million.

One of the world's poorest nations has lost nine per cent of all its nurses in the past two years, with 82 per cent going to Britain. The equivalent loss for the NHS would be for 20,700 nurses to leave British hospitals in one year.

[...] Nurses at Lilongwe Central have given up taking holidays. In theory they are entitled to 24 days a year. Many have not taken a single day for three years.

[...] Despite having only five paediatricians and 212 general practitioners, Malawi has eliminated measles and immunised 80 per cent of its children against the most dangerous diseases.

The country's expensively trained personnel are a prize catch for the NHS. Dr Michael O'Carroll, senior technical adviser at the health ministry, said this amounted to "Malawi subsiding other countries".

The health ministry has an emergency plan to improve staff pay and conditions, to bring 300 expatriate doctors into Malawi's hospitals and to increase greatly the capacity of medical training colleges. This £150 million plan requires £54 million aid from Britain. (source)