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Zimbabwean Hospitals Hemorrhaging Staff Through Brain Drain

A report issued this week by the Zimbabwe's Health Services Board painted a gloomy portrait of how brain-drain is sapping the vigor of country's health institutions, saying Zimbabwe was the worst hit of any African nation by emigration of professionals.

Zimbabwe has lost half of its most highly qualified health care professionals to other countries in the region and in the developed world, the report said.

As a result, the five main state hospitals are operating on minimal staff. The hospitals counted just 36 senior doctors when 145 are needed, and at the end of 2005 there were just 291 primary care nurses where 2,500 ought to have been in place.

Health Services Board Chairman Dr. Lovemore Mbengeranwa told the state-owned Sunday Mail paper that poor pay and limited resources are the main factors sending Zimbabwean health care professionals abroad. Consequently, only an economic recovery can reverse the trend, Mbengeranwa told the newspaper.

The exodus of professionals from all walks of life is of great concern to Harare, which recently announced a Z$550 million fund to encourage skilled workers to stay.

In a recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Robert Mugabe took up this theme, saying the losses of human resources and skills outweighed the remittances sent back to the country by such workers once in the diaspora. He said unless brain drain is reversed, it will continue to handicap development.

Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with two health professionals about the phenomenon: Hospital Doctors Association Vice President Dr. Morgan Muzondo, and Dr. Douglas Gwatidzo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights. Dr. Gwatidzo confirmed from his observations that there is an extensive exodus in progress in Zimbabwe's medical professions.

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