Plug the brain drain in health system, UNICEF official advises Zim

VISITING United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official says boasting of medical training institutions is not the solution to the massive brain drain in Zimbabwe.

UNICEF Global Director for Health Dr Aboubacar Kampo who flew all the way from New York, USA, said addressing a High Level Dialogue on Child Health Financing on Wednesday.

“I think we need to be fair that when it comes to individual contributions towards their own countries, it’s an individual choice and I think some of the issues can be dealt with temporarily. A country can set conditions for temporarily bringing back the health workforce. But you still need definite solutions to avoid exodus of your workers. So, building the teaching institutions will not necessarily solve the problem if the conditions of the health workforce in Zimbabwe…if we are not able to create an environment that is conducive for them to remain in Zimbabwe. That’s the unfortunate situation that the government of Zimbabwe is in,” he said.

He also mentioned the importance of having satisfactory incentives to retain the remaining health workforce.

“As we have seen from the budget that 56percent of the domestic funding already goes to salaries. So, the discussions we need to have are what kind of incentives which necessarily should not always have to be monetary maybe just conditions to remain in certain specific areas,” Dr Kampo said.

Dr Kampo also said health workers who migrate overseas often return when their home country’s economic and development situation improves.

“The Hon Minister will be able to respond on how they will be able to bring back some of the health workers from the diaspora.  Our trends internationally have shown people will come back if the global and general situations of the country improve because these are individual decisions which cannot necessarily be enforced,” he said.

The Acting Minister of Health and Child Care Professor Amon Murwira defended the government’s recent non-monetary incentives they introduced as a measure to mitigate brain drain within the health sector. These include wifi at work stations and accommodation alongside the vehicle importation rebate.

The Acting Health Minister also the Minister of Higher and Tertiary education, Science and Technology Development cried foul that Zimbabwe being poor was spending about USD500 000 in training doctors who would be snapped by foreign nations on the back of poor conditions of service.

“There is always the issue of knowledge gain which is important. And a multipolar world where people are going from different places to different places there is knowledge to be gained. That is true but this question is a complex question. This is a poor country which is trying to do its best to educate its people. Spending the very little money that they have to educate people. And somebody is just waiting to harvest that. So it has many dimensions including very moral ones including international diplomacy. I don’t want to go deeper because I think this example illustrates what happens,’ Prof Murwira said.

With the major trigger for brain drain in the health sector being poor remuneration and conditions of service in the public sector, Prof Mu finds it unfair Government is being blamed for deteriorating the health system.

“Locally as a country we can try by all means not only to have monetary benefits. We have now a strategy to do non-monetary benefits. Just conditions of living and try to see that in the health sector they are provided with basic infrastructure, both at home as well as within the hospital so that we can improve our conditions. Im sure that we are aware that we cannot prevent people from moving across the world. They will move. It has multiple ways in which we can basically solve it. But you must know that when our people go, we would have educated them. And vacuuming them out of the country surely should be done with a world mind, with a humanitarian, united nations kind of thing. That the little thing that we produce we will always vacuum and you profit from it and accuse us of having a collapsing health system. Its not very fair,” he said.

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