The richest countries should stop hiring nurses en masse and at low cost in poor countries that are already poor in terms of health, and invest to reduce their shortage in this sector, the International Federation of Nurses calculated on Monday.
According to the International Council of Nurses (ICN), seven or eight wealthy countries, including the UK, US and Canada, are responsible for about 80% of international nurse migration in an attempt to fill their national shortage.
She stressed that such massive recruitment in African or Asian countries, whose health systems are among the most vulnerable on the planet, is difficult to justify.
“We are very concerned about some of the examples,” said Howard Catton, CEO of ICN, during a press conference hosted by the UN Correspondents Association in Geneva on Monday.
As such, he mentioned talks between the UK and Ghana to reach an agreement whereby London would pay Accra £1,000 (€1,140) for every nurse hired.
“This is by no means an acknowledgment of the true cost of training this nurse” or “a loss to the Ghanaian healthcare system,” he explained.
Mr Catton also denounced London’s agreement with the government of Nepal to hire nurses, while in the UK there are 80 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants, compared to about 20 in Nepal.
“This removes nurses from an already very weak base where access to medical care is limited” and thus could disappear in places, he said.
The international recruitment is also mainly aimed at specialized and experienced nurses, CII regrets.
“This creates a serious lack of experience in countries that cannot afford to lose their most experienced nurses,” said ICN President Pamela Cipriano, expressing “deep concern” about the ongoing “genuine brain drain.”
She addressed the “ethics” of recruiting countries, asking them to mobilize to become self-sufficient in nursing education. “Health is a global issue” and “we don’t want some countries to prosper while others suffer,” she said.
The ICN, founded in 1899 in Geneva, is a federation of over 130 national nursing associations representing 28 million nurses worldwide.