Mississippi:It took primitive conditions at a government hospital to end Dr. Minerva Rasalan’s dream of helping the poor in her native Philippines and send her on a mission toward permanent residency and practice in the United States.
During her time at the underfunded hospital, she found pregnant women assigned two to a cot, patients lining the halls and gloves and needles being sterilized for re-use. Without respirators, relatives sometimes were forced to manually bag their loved ones to keep them alive.
“It’s sad, especially for the pediatric patients who we know how to treat their diseases and most of these are infectious diseases,” said Rasalan. “We know what antibiotics to use, but we don’t have them and as a result, we lose that patient.”
Rasalan is among thousands of foreign-born doctors working across the U.S. under special visas that allow them to practice in underserved rural and inner-city areas with the promise of eventual permanent residency. But critics argue the so-called “brain drain” of doctors leaving for work in the U.S. has further strained already faltering health care systems in the developing world.
U.S to stop poaching doctors and fix its shortage problems
Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan of George Washington University believes the U.S. which is facing a shortage of doctors must stop looking elsewhere to fix its problems. He compares the practice to “poaching” and said it amounts to poor citizenship in the world community.
Every doctor drawn to the U.S, Britain, Australia and Canada from poorer nations leaves a hole that is not likely to be filled.
Mullan’s research shows that areas such as sub-Saharan Africa (13.9 percent), the Indian subcontinent (10.7 percent) and the Caribbean (8.4 percent) lose large numbers of doctors to the big four nations. But there is little reciprocation. The U.S. exports less than one-tenth of 1 percent of its doctors abroad, for example.
“That creates enormous problems for the (source) country and for the educational and health leaders in the country who are attempting to provide healers,” he said.
While it is unclear what effect the arrest of the foreign doctors allegedly involved in a recent attempted terrorist attack in Great Britain will have on the ongoing exodus of physicians from developing nations, there is no question why doctors in developing countries are searching for opportunity elsewhere _ even in the rural U.S.
While many American doctors shy away from these areas, they have a strong allure for foreign doctors seeking a better life and professional fulfillment.
India largest provider of doctors
India provides the largest number of foreign-born doctors to work in the four developed nations at about 55,000, Mullan’s research shows. About 40,000 of those work in the U.S. The Philippines come next with about 18,000 doctors exported, mostly to the U.S.
At least 20 countries export more than 10% of their physician work forces to richer nations. Sub-Saharan Africa alone has nine of the top 20 nations contributing emigres.
Mullan said the U.S. has about 280 doctors per 100,000 people while India has barely 60 and doctor-poor Ghana has only two per 100,000, while Zimbabwe, where junior doctors make about $45 (euro32) a week, is down to one.
The loss of doctors in Africa, where millions have been infected with HIV and AIDS, is especially acute. Dr. Kgosi Letlape, president of the South African Medical Association, said doctor migration creates a trickle-up effect, of sorts.
Kenneth Ronquillo, director of the Philippines Department of Health’s Bureau of Human Resources, said the shortage of doctors for rural areas of his country might be as steep as 5,000, though there are no concrete numbers available.
He said pay seems to be the factor most likely to chase doctors out of the country. An entry-level physician makes about $320 (euro231) a month, as much as some U.S. doctors can make in an hour or two.
“When we visit hospitals, we can already see that they lack doctors,” he said. “Even in metro Manila, there is a lack of trainees for anesthesia, and the hospitals are advertising for their needs.