Brain drain. Practitioners in Africa (barely) practice healthcare together. Health Policy View

A doctor examines a patient in the DPRK. Working conditions for doctors are extremely difficult in many African countries.

As the Global North poaches African doctors, health care falls to overworked and uneducated practitioners, some of whom learn medical procedures from YouTube.

15 of the world’s wealthiest countries (in fiscal terms) have more than 55,000 African doctors in their health systems, new data analysis shows. The continent shows. These are doctors who qualified before entering those countries.

The UK is the main culprit, followed by the United States, France, Canada, Germany and Ireland, in that order.

Among African countries draining doctors, a recent analysis by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that Egypt has lost the most, followed by Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria and Sudan.

Those countries have therefore paid a significant price for the quality of healthcare they offer their own residents.

Egypt, for example, has the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio of its North African neighbors. In many drainage countries, there are so few trained doctors left that the bulk of health care is provided by trainee doctors, practitioners.

“They treat us like we’re nobody”

Research in Uganda and Kenya details the costs of these practitioners. The study titled “We’ve Been Treated Like We’re Nobody.” published this month in British Medical Journal for Global Health and is based on data from over 700 medical practitioners in two countries, as well as interviews with 54 junior doctors and 14 consultant doctors.

It found that medical practitioners suffer from burnout and stress because they work unreasonable hours and often have no superiors to train and supervise them. Their working conditions continue to present the same challenges that drive more experienced doctors to seek greener pastures.

The study found that a lack of support and supervision also “compromises the well-being of individuals and the quality of care provided”.

“Many reported working unreasonable hours, up to 72 hours, due to staff shortages,” said one of the researchers, Yinxi Zhao.

“Sometimes the interns were the only staff running the wards or had to perform certain procedures unsupervised. These included cases where practitioners had to learn how to perform C-sections from YouTube.”

A threat to the lives of patients and doctors

Such conditions threaten not only the lives of patients, but also the doctors-in-training. Research The World Health Organization (WHO) found that people who worked 55 or more hours a week had a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease than those who worked between the ages of 35 and 40. hours

The findings from Kenya and Uganda replicate those from the Nigerian study published in May In the journal Public Library of Science.

Researchers interviewed 628 early-career physicians, and nearly 40% said they felt overwhelmed by their work. About 16% said they wanted to leave the profession, and twice as many said they were worried.

In both studies, researchers recommend limiting working hours for medical interns and junior doctors. But limited training opportunities and a continuous brain drain make the doctor-patient ratio so low that reducing working hours is all but impossible.

The best doctor-to-patient ratios by a wide margin are in Libya and Algeria, with 22 and 17 doctors per 10,000 population, respectively. But even Libya and Algeria compare poorly with the leading importers of African doctors, the UK and the US, which have between 32 and 37 doctors for every 10,000 people.

For a doctor looking for a sustainable work-life balance, going to the Global North is a no-brainer.

Lucy Nyokabi, a medical intern at a hospital in Nairobi, says her workload is overwhelming and she often doesn’t have safety equipment or supplies to do the job properly, like oxygen masks.

“My family supports me in getting the things I need for work. I have to remind myself that I need this training to excel at the real job,” she says.

This makes it attractive to leave. “We all hope to work abroad. I think the conditions are better outside.”

Published for the first time The continent. Subscribe to this free weekly newsletter by emailing

Image credits: DNDi.

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