A Look at Medical Migration

A Large Number of Doctors Treating US and Canadian AIDs Patients Are Trained in African Countries

Many doctors treating AIDS patients in the United States and Canada are trained in Africa, according to a recent Washington Post article.  This phenomenon, known as "medical migration," is responsible for the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in Africa’s third world countries; it is created partially by rich countries like the U.S. and Britain.

African doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trained in poor nations like Zambia and Ghana, and then move abroad to American hospitals to increase their income and better their standard of living.

According to the Washington Post, Africa has 1.4 health workers per 1,000 people.  In the U.S., that ratio is 9.9 per 1,000 people.  In the West African country of Ghana, 150 doctors are trained yearly.  As reported by the World Bank Group, 80 percent of these doctors emigrate within five years of graduating.  For Ghanaian nurses, the ratio is 75 percent; for pharmacists, it is 40 percent.  Additionally, in South Africa, nearly 1,000 doctors move abroad every year.

James Miller, a professor of Africana Studies at George Washington University, asserts that anytime a country faces a brain drain, there will inevitably be negative consequences for its people.

"It’s really going to come down to the ways in which government can respond to the crisis.  That is, how well they can go about keeping people in their country.  It’s a political issue.  It’s an economic issue."

Domonique Chapman, a freshman physician assistant major at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore, believes that "medical migration" will have an effect on the future generations of both Africa and America.

"This is going to deplete the population of Africa," she says.  "People cannot survive without medical care.  Eventually it’s going to affect America too, because they’re going to take our medical jobs—my job."

AIDS is more rampant in Africa than on any other continent; one nurse can be responsible for as many as 50 patients.

"This is scary," admits Trey Washington, a junior at Anne Arundel Community College.  "There is no way that future generations will be able to curb this problem without the help of doctors.  The death toll is going to rise to staggering heights."