Monday, May 29, 2006

Selective Immigration and the Need for Medical Professionals.

In France as in the US, the idea of selective immigration based on qualification is a hot but highly controversial topic, and not only in Africa as we reported last week. An editorial in last Sunday’s Herald Tribune raises the question by taking the example of the need for nurses in America. It is interesting because it is a problem not just for the US or France but also for most western countries as they face problems caused by their aging population. It is also something that is part of the current debate on immigration.

As they noted:

American hospitals are looking overseas to solve some of the current nursing shortage, eliciting concern from African and Asian countries that worry about losing their own desperately needed medical professionals. In the Philippines, most government doctors have enrolled in nursing training in hopes of being permitted to come to the United States to work.

The idea of the richest country in the world skimming the scant cream off the health care staffs of poor countries is disturbing.

The solution to this problem offered by the IHT looks (almost) ‘dangerously’ socialist though – they claim that one of the first and most obvious fixes is increased government spending on nursing education.”.

But as they also notice, there needs to be radical improvement in the work conditions (more medical workers serving fewer patients) and in the pay. To fix those problems, you will need to increase spending in healthcare as well as a shift in how money is spent (more on the wages and less in lawsuits and insurance.). In any case, those changes will probably be painful to somebody.

It is likely however that the pain will be greater in developing countries that desperately need medical professionals, and in the end, if the medical situation gets worse there, the pain will eventually reach the rest of us as it always seems to backfire in the long run.


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