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Medical migration risk to poor countries’ health services

Medical migration risk to poor countries’ health services

Wealthy countries have a responsibility to consider the impact of hiring doctors from poorer countries and try to minimise the practice, says Dr Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General of the World Medical Association.

Dr Kloiber, of Germany, is a guest speaker at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists 30th anniversary conference in Wellington today.

New Zealand relies heavily on international medical graduates, and was second only to Israel on this measure on a table of OECD countries displayed by Dr Kloiber.

The practice is depleting the supply of doctors in poorer countries, depriving the local population of health care. It was a global movement of doctors from poor to rich countries.

Dr Kloiber says it’s vital politicians in rich countries view health as an investment. Too often it’s viewed as an expense, and this means health systems are not properly resourced and the need arises to look to other countries to supply doctors.

If the working conditions including salaries of doctors trained in New Zealand were improved in order to retain them in our public hospitals, it would not need to depend so much on raiding other countries of their doctors.

The World Medical Association advocates for universal health coverage and still needs to convince doctors in some countries that this is not to their disadvantage. What is good for their patients is good for the doctors as well.

He says primary health care is the core of a comprehensive health care system, but there are limits to what it can do and there must be secondary and higher-level services.

“A good primary health care system can deal with the vast majority of cases that come up in health care. But if you structure a health care system that is only primary health care than you are producing a dead-end road.”

Dr Kloiber emphasised the importance of governments addressing the social determinants of health, such as housing and education.

“The health care system alone is not the answer to fighting inequity. We have to start much earlier.”

ENDS

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