(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Government worried about lack of health workers

[Congo] Patients à l'hopital.
IRIN

Congo’s Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Family, Emilienne Raoul, has raised concerns that a lack of qualified staff in the public health sector will have repercussions for the population’s health.

“The human resources crisis in the health sector in francophone sub-Saharan Africa is getting worse,” she told a conference in Cameroon’s capital, Douala.

“A radical change in this sector should be a national, regional and international priority in order to improve the health of our populations,” she added.

The crisis was characterised by a dire shortage of personnel in developing countries. It is reckoned that African countries need three times the number of medical staff if they are to have a chance of meeting the millennium development goals.

Another factor was the unequal division of personnel between rural and urban areas. Doctors are mainly concentrated in cities while most people live in rural areas.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), 40 percent of medical staff in Africa have abandoned the sector and taken up other, more lucrative activities.

Moreover, poor salaries in the public sector pushed many doctors to go into private practice. In South Africa, for example, three out of four doctors worked in the private sector while only 20 percent of the people could afford private fees.

According to Raoul, the conference resolved to adopt a regional framework to tackle these issues. Top of the list is developing the health sector by devoting a greater share of the national budget to training.

At a national level, the minister said governments had to update plans for training in healthcare to take into consideration the deadline for the MDGs in 2015, as well as put into place a data-base to ensure skills were employed to maximum advantage and that training was designed to fill the biggest resource gaps.

For Congo, two phases have been suggested, beginning with the immediate design and implementation of an urgent plan for training in 2007-2008, to be followed by the longer-term development plan for the health sector over the following three years.

ai/re/mw

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