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Fighting brain drain in the Pacific

Fighting brain drain in the Pacific

The Prime Minister is right to focus on skills development in the Pacific rather than increasing migration, The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ) said yesterday in the lead-up to the Pacific Forum meeting in Papua New Guinea.

"We agree with the Prime Minister that 'bringing the best and the brightest to New Zealand' is not always the best option. This is why we are establishing the Pacific Eye Institute in the Solomon Islands – to train Pacific eye health doctors and nurses to fight blindness across the region," said Carmel Williams, executive director of The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ).

"Training skilled workers in their region is vital to building strong and healthy communities. The best and the brightest from the Pacific Islands must have incentives to invest their skills in their home countries," said Ms Williams.

“The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ is raising funds for the Pacific Eye Institute in Honiara. From 2006 the Institute will offer one year courses in postgraduate training for doctors and nurses in the region. It is important that training is done in the Pacific, under the same conditions and with the same equipment they will be using in their own countries.

“For too long, developing countries have lost their investment in their own people when they leave to build their careers in developed countries. The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ) promotes the idea that careers can be advanced in developing countries as well,” said Ms Williams.

“By working with Pacific universities we are improving the standard of education for eye care nurses and doctors. And if their employers – often the ministries of health – recognise and compensate professionals for their skills, they are more likely to stay at home and deliver excellent services to their own countries.

“There are eight million people living in the Pacific, and about 80,000 people are needlessly blind or vision impaired because they do not have access to health care facilities staffed by their own trained people,” said Ms Williams.

Ms Williams’ comments came as leaders at the Pacific Forum summit in Papua New Guinea this week prepared to endorse the Pacific Plan, which focuses on developing a regional approach to training and also pushes for greater access to labour markets in Australia and New Zealand.

“The Fred Hollows Foundation (NZ) philosophy of training local practitioners so that each country has a sustainable eye health system, is in line with the objectives of the Pacific Plan,” said Ms Williams. The Pacific Plan is expected to be endorsed by the 16-nation Pacific Forum summit this week.

ENDS

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