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UN Report: Many More Zimbabwean Health Workers Could Emigrate

A United Nations report says two-thirds of Zimbabwe's remaining health care workers intend to leave the country, pointing to a bleaker future for a national health system that is already overburdened by the demands of the HIV-AIDS pandemic.

The report from the United Nations Population Fund said 68% of health professionals still living and working in Zimbabwe want to emigrate. Already, 11% of doctors and 43% of nurses have emigrated seeking better pay and working conditions.

The state-appointed Health Services Board said the country’s five major hospitals are operating with 36 senior doctors where 145 were needed and 72 specialists instead of the 189 required. It said 44% of senior nursing positions, 88% of primary care nurse openings and 89% of lab technician positions were unfilled as of late 2005.

The Population Fund said the exodus has hurt the fight against HIV-AIDS.

Harare has established an “intellectual desk” in the Ministry of Higher Education in the aim of stemming the brain drain in medicine and other professions. It proposes to lure professionals back on a short-term basis in medicine, mining, education, engineering and other fields. But health experts have called this an exercise in futility.

An opposition spokesman on health, Dr Henry Madzorera, said that unless Harare addresses the economic crisis, medical specialists will continue to migrate.

Dr Samukheliso Dube, a Zimbabwean doctor now living and working in South Africa, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Population Fund's projection of a 68% emigration rate might in fact be conservative.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...