Should We Export Doctors?

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Author Godfrey Chitalu

…IDEATIONS… GoddyChitty @Large by Godfrey Chitalu

My son who is a medical doctor would laugh at the idea of Zambia exporting doctors. It is indisputable that our country needs every trained doctor to be in a hospital or related facility. It therefore jolted my mind when 700 qualified medical doctors staged a demonstration for not being employed. Is our country missing something?

If statistically, we only have 1 doctor for every 12,000 potential patients, why would we let this vital human resource linger in purgatory? Should we look at the option of exporting these doctors? Can we facilitate, perhaps within Africa for a fixed and highly regulated work for money pilot? Our doctors can be given binding contracts to come back say after two years. By that time, we could have found plan B.

Come to think of it. The minimum basic acceptable World Health Organization standard for doctor patient ratio is 1:500. In actual fact our country currently has a shortfall of well over 3000 doctors. Coming to the 700 protesting doctors, one idea would be to do a swap by retiring other non-productive civil servants and local government workers.

I’m still not amused with the space taken by District Commissioners and their District Administrative Officers. Their principle accountabilities can easily suit one position. Look at other duplicities we have in regard to Council Secretaries and their deputies! Departmental heads can take turns to deputize whenever needed.

Why can’t our country find a way of contractually exporting medical personnel for short stints? A half loaf is better than none. There are many countries that are willing to take the tab. Some of us still remember how the former Minister of Health announced a deal to take our doctors to Angola. Amid pomp and splendor, we heard that Angola was willing to give us some forex as long as we provided human resource in form of doctors. What happened to that agreement?

For bystanders, it seemed evident that Angola had the wherewithal to consummate the agreement. In the wake of the demonstration by the 700, perhaps the new minister in charge of health can re sing that song. He can also look around the region to see who else can accommodate some of the 700 loafing doctors. While he is on that, he should continue cleansing Ndeke House, which apparently has a good number of medical personnel doing administrative works. The vast majority, if not all our doctors must be in hospitals!

Just in case we manage to export the present crop of loafer doctors, we must know that we have limited universities that churn them out. With only four private and an equal number of government universities offering Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, we should anticipate future shortfalls. To fully train a doctor is not only involving but an expensive venture.

Clearly Levy Mwanawasa Medical University, University of Zambia, Copperbelt University and Mulungushi University even at their peaks will not fully satisfy the gap we have. Even if we added the four private universities; Cavendish University, Texila American University, Lusaka Apex University, and University of Lusaka, training doctors is a tall order. We should not wax lyrical about exporting doctors.

So the conclusion of the matter is that whatever I have written above is an exercise in futility. Let us look for money and employ the 700 loafer doctors. We need them more than Angola or any other country.

The author is a social commentator who writes for pleasure. (@goddychitty) Twitter|Facebook | 0977466284|0963013760|[email protected]

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