Health Talk: Health workers exodus inimical to healthcare delivery

The World Health Organisation and the International Council of Nurses have revealed a global nursing shortage of 5,6 million nurses, with the greatest need for qualified nurses being South East Asia and Africa.

A few days ago, the media was awash with news that Germany is in need of 500 000 nurses that are expected to fill the gaps in that country.

A 2022 report published by the National Institute for Health said Germany has been unable to fill up to 520 000 full-time nursing positions.

The World Health Organisation and the International Council of Nurses have revealed a global nursing shortage of 5,6 million nurses, with the greatest need for qualified nurses being South East Asia and Africa.

At least 7,3 million nurses and midwives are currently employed in the European region, but the figure is said to be inadequate to meet current and future needs.

Whatever is said concerning nursing positions, the damage will mostly affect many poor countries of the globe with our country being one of the victims.

What I foresee is Africa that has a poorer health delivery system after unprecedented migration to the so-called greener pastures.

Germany is eyeing South Africa for recruitment and selection of nurses and with South Africa only having about 20 000 unemployed nurses, further fishing will see the country losing almost everyone to Germany.

The consequences are dire with collapsed health systems being on top of the list.

Government-to government negotiations will not yield positive social results, but will only be of relevance when monetary benefits are to be realised at government level.

African governments have always cried foul when there is worker migration, citing financial losses emanating from training costs.

It is estimated that at least US$175 000 is required to train one doctor in Zimbabwe and about US$70 000 to train one nurse so it is absurd to lose healthcare workers to foreign countries on a silver plate.

It is the taxpayer that loses more from the migration.

In 2007, WHO released a framework for action that has six building blocks which include service delivery, health workforce, information systems, medical products, financing and governance.

The framework is instrumental in strengthening the overall health system and as a catalyst for achieving global health targets.

When one of the six pillars is deformed, then there is catastrophe on the overall structure of the health system with serious threat of collapsing.

Without a vibrant workforce, there is obvious disaster in the health system with untold understaffing, lack of motivation, loss of work morale and the result is clear health service delivery.

Zimbabwe has been continuously losing health workers for greener pastures and it is not a secret that close to 5 000 health workers have left Zimbabwe in the past two years alone.

United Kingdom has become the biggest beneficiary of the migration.

Government should adopt strategies that help in worker retention. It is senseless to have state-of-the-art healthcare facilities without adequate staff.

Mahusekwa Hospital, a state-of-the-art facility, in Mashonaland East province constructed a few years ago brought high expectations from the community, alas; the institution is now a pale shadow of itself.

Skilled and experienced workforce is critical in every institution in the country and failure to acquire such is detrimental to sound health service delivery.

It is not a secret that the working conditions of our healthcare workers are not pleasing with nurses getting salaries that are not enough to send their children to school, to pay for accommodation and to fuel their vehicles among other duties.

Why does government take time to address health workers’ grievances yet health service delivery is under threat? There has been talk of health workers getting housing loans, vehicle loans, stands, farms etcetera but implementation has derailed with nothing being achieved so far.

The end result is extensive loss of healthcare workers to foreign countries. The home countries will surely face collapse in the health sector.

What are we going to do as a nation if half of our skilled health workers leave the country for greener pastures? Where will our parents seek expert treatment if the situation remains unabated?

African governments, Zimbabwe included, should seek to avert impeding health disasters by putting in place worker retention strategies.

The Western world will not hesitate to fish from our pools of qualified health personnel and we should not blame health imperialism when we flex our hands when we are supposed to be fighting back.


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