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UPDATED: 18:49, June 17, 2005
G8 leaders urged to tackle medical brain-drain in poor countries
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Medical groups in Britain have called on the government to tackle the "poaching" of overseas healthcare workers from developing countries at the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit to be held in Scotland early next month.

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing have written to Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding urgent action to tackle the issue of medical staff migrating from developing nations, which they say is killing millions and compounding poverty, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported Friday.

They urged leaders of the world's wealthiest nations to address the exodus of healthcare workers from the developing world if they are to tackle global poverty.

Sub-Saharan African countries are some of the worst hit by the "brain-drain", they said.

The call echoed the World Health Organization estimate that one million more healthcare workers are needed in African countries to meet basic health goals, such as reducing childhood and maternal mortality.

Last month, British doctors warned in the Lancet medical journal that the country was crippling sub-Saharan Africa's healthcare system by poaching its staff.

James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, referred to the consequences of poaching on the developing world as "absolutely catastrophic", adding "there are large areas of Africa where there are no health workers of any kind."

The letter praises the British government for taking a "strong moral lead" on global poverty, but warns that efforts to deal with HIV and other health crises in the developing world are being hampered by the staff shortages.

The British government does have an ethical code which means it will not actively recruit from certain developing countries, including those in sub-Saharan Africa. However, healthcare professionals from these countries are free to apply for jobs in Britain.

At present, nearly a third of the doctors practicing in Britain were actually trained overseas. In Germany and France, only 5 percent doctors are not home-grown.

"The British Government has led the way in establishing a code of good practice for ethical recruitment," the letter says, adding it's essential for other developed countries like the United States to make similar commitment to the effect.

According to British Health Minister Lord Warner, the agenda for the G8 summit "is focusing on the particular needs of Africa in seeking ways to develop healthcare systems on a sustainable basis and it will be important to consider issues around recruitment and retention of local health service staff."

Source: Xinhua

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