July 12, 2004

Nursing Shortage in Africa

Today, in the NY Times, there was heartrending article about the nursing shortage in Africa. In a nutshell, it appears that all of the nurses are setting off to practice their art back in Great Britain. Result? The health and medical systems of Malawi are on the verge of collapse. It is becoming a total ruin and a crisis.

The blame and the remedy are where the NY Times and I part company. The position of the author is right out in front: "It is the poor subsidizing the rich, since African governments paid to educate many of the health care workers who are leaving." Well, the blame is clear. It's all the fault of the prosperous Western regimes. The remedy proposed? Set up some system which will make it more difficult for these women to emigrate, to get out of Africa, to get out of hospitals where it is assumed, for instance, that "any woman they examine may be H.I.V. positive", where "a quarter of public health workers, including nurses, will be dead, mostly of AIDS and tuberculosis, by 2009, according to a study of worker death rates in 40 hospitals here".

Instead of setting up some bureaucratic Berlin Wall to keep these women slaving away for overtime pay of 20 cents an hour, let's turn the focus on corrupt regimes which are killing their people. We cannot force these women to stay. That is immoral if they can get out and especially if they can support themselves elsewhere. No, this is the free market of people -- the movement of people from bad regimes to comparatively better ones. The trick is to make it possible for these women to want to stay in their home countries, not to coerce them into it. That is where the hard work comes in. How to improve African countries. No one wants to focus on that when the easier and more politically attractive explanation is that it is all the fault of the West. Cheap blame will solve nothing.

Posted by Random Penseur at July 12, 2004 03:14 PM
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