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Moves To Improve Migration Of Health Workers

Commonwealth Foundation Moves To Improve Conditions For Migration Of Health Workers

For immediate release November 2008

Inter-governmental organisation, the Commonwealth Foundation, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Medical Association, stands to improve the state of Commonwealth healthcare by strengthening the local professional workforce, when it hosts the first of its regional symposiums looking at issues around the migration of health workers in New Delhi, India on 17 to 18 November 2008.

Migration of healthcare workers was recorded as a cause for concern at the civil society gathering, the Commonwealth People’s Forum, ahead of the November 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where calls were made to Commonwealth governments to become self sufficient in their health workforce in response to the chronic drain of trained personnel from poor to rich countries inside and outside the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.

On a per capita basis, Asia is the region most affected by the dearth of health personnel, requiring three million health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives, hospital technicians and clinical staff, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Many Asian health workers are particularly lured away from serving in their own region by the demand for health professionals in industrialized countries.

The two-day symposium will share information and country experience on efforts to better manage the migration of health workers. The event will bring together professionals through Commonwealth Associations and governments, a partnership that is an important element of the Commonwealth Foundation’s work.

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“This is not an issue that can be addressed by governments alone, nor can it be solved by civil society working in isolation, so we are pleased that the Commonwealth Foundation has brought both sides together to tackle this important issue,” said Jill Iliffe Executive Secretary of the Commonwealth Nurses Federation (CNF). “Many nurses from developing countries do not choose to migrate,” Iliffe explained. “They feel forced to migrate because of the difficult economic circumstances in their own countries and the attractive initiatives offered them from developed countries which cannot be matched at home. The CNF is concerned about the exploitation of nurses from developing countries once they arrive in developed countries.” The CNF is one of five Commonwealth health professional associations joining the Commonwealth Medical Association, Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association, the Commonwealth Dental Association and the Commonwealth Association of Mental, Handicap and Developmental Disabilities that will be involved in the symposium and consequently will be heard as a critical voice in ongoing national, regional and international debates around health worker migration.

The Commonwealth Secretariat has been working on promoting the managed migration of health workers since 1998, demonstrated in particular by the introduction of the Commonwealth Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health workers in 2003, in response to concerns about the impact of unethical international recruitment on the health workforce in many Commonwealth countries”. The Commonwealth Code of Practice offers Commonwealth governments offered guidance on the issue of health worker migration and is the first multi-lateral agreement of its kind to provide good practice on managing the human resource issues of healthcare professionals. The Honorable Nimal Siripala de Silva, Chair of the World Health Organisation’s Executive Board and Sri Lankan Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition said that the Commonwealth Code of Practice was important guidance for governments to access. “What Commonwealth governments have been presented with here is a real opportunity to improve healthcare in their country by working together with civil society and following the good guidance that this partnership has formed,” said de Silva.

The symposium aims to equip representatives from Commonwealth health professional associations with up-to-date knowledge on the issues surrounding the use of codes of practice and strengthening their knowledge and skills to enable effective advocacy strategies aimed at lobbying governments to address the health worker shortages. It also aims to share and identify appropriate strategies for recruitment and retention of health workers.

The efforts to improve the retention of local healthcare professionals will continue with a regional event hosted by the Commonwealth Nurses Federation and the Commonwealth Foundation in Botswana, Africa, February 2009.


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