Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Brain drain now a na

Brain drain now a national ‘hemorrhage’ First posted 09:32am (Mla time) Sept 21, 2005 By Christian EsguerraInquirer News Service THE BRAIN drain has become a “national hemorrhage.” Some 80 percent of government doctors are now enrolled in nursing schools nationwide so they can land higher-paying jobs as nurses overseas, according to a group of concerned health professionals. The situation was troubling since one Filipino doctor tended to between 10,000 and 26,000 patients, warned the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD).The local ratio was a far cry from the United States and even Cuba where there was one doctor for every 225 patients.“Let’s look at the irony -- we are producing so many nurses yet our hospitals are lacking in quality nurses and the quality of health service that we’re giving to Filipinos is very poor,” Dr. Gene Nisperos, HEAD secretary general, said Tuesday in a press conference in Quezon City.HEAD, an organization of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, linked up with the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) to pressure the government and other stakeholders to address the worsening health care problem.Last week, the AHW predicted that the local health care system would crumble in two to three years unless the exodus of doctors and nurses was arrested.In the media briefing, Nisperos said the brain drain started in the 1960s when doctors and nurses left for higher studies and training overseas.By the mid-1970s, however, the Philippines was already the top exporter of doctors and nurses in the world, second only to India in peddling local doctors abroad.The problem of health professionals leaving the country for better pay and working conditions came to a head in the late 1990s when the US and several European countries jacked up their demands for doctors and nurses.From 2000 to 2003, Nisperos said a total of 51,580 Filipino nurses left the country. In 2004, some 5,000 doctors jumped on the bandwagon to work as nurses. Around 4,000 more doctors are taking up nursing this year.The growing number of doctors settling for a nurse’s cap has been welcomed by nursing schools. At least 45 of them now offer an abbreviated nursing course for doctors lasting between 1 1/2 to 3 years, according to HEAD.Nisperos said administrations, past and present, should have taken concrete steps to keep doctors and nurses in the country.“This is mainly a government-sponsored phenomenon,” he said. “We believe strong medicine is needed to address the hemorrhage in the health sector.”The HEAD-AHW alliance proposed four steps to deal with the health sector crisis: First, the Arroyo administration should increase the budget for health care and abide by the World Health Organization prescription that countries set aside at least 5 percent of their gross national product for this purpose. At present, only 0.6 percent of the GNP was purportedly allocated to the health sector.Second, the government should work to adequately compensate doctors and nurses. In the South African country of Namibia, the alliance said a junior physician earned $1,161 monthly while a Filipino counterpart here had a salary of between $300 and $400.Third, the government should review -- or perhaps rescind -- its commitments to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Such commitments purportedly allow countries like the United Kingdom to lure local doctors and nurses to work abroad, with no regard for the fate of the local health care system.Fourth, there should be more consultations among all stakeholders in the health care crisis, particularly patients, to arrive at other concrete solutions. #(image placeholder)

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