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Regional Medical Councils to Jointly Track migration of Health Workers

Health workers who wish to migrate to foreign countries will be required to first register with their respective medical councils. Starting next year, all health workers will be tasked to fill the standardised application form indicating why they are migrating, where they are moving to, and where applicable how much they will be paid.

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Health workers who wish to migrate to foreign countries will be required to first register with their respective medical councils.

The decision was reached upon  by medical council representatives in Africa under their umbrella body, 'Association of Medical Councils of Africa- AMCOA' in a two-day conference at Sarova White Sands Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

Starting next year, all health workers will be tasked to fill the 'standardised application form indicating  why they are migrating, where they are moving to, and where applicable how much they will be paid.

This information will be compiled by each country to understand the factors that drive away health workforce within and  from their mother countries to other countries so that governments can address the challenges to retain them.

According to Dr. Katumba Sentongo, the registrar for Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council-UMDPC, the tool is aimed at managing medical tourism through benchmarking governments to provide incentives for workers to stay in their mother countries.

He adds that Uganda loses over 100 medical doctors who choose to work in foreign countries every year. He says that most of these have migrated to Australia, Botswana, Canada and the United Kingdom among others.

He also said that the council has a challenge of knowing where its medical personnel have migrated to.

Previously, the medical council would only offer a letter of good conduct for workers seeking employment outside the country.

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According to Dr. Kelly Nyaim of the Kenya Medical and Dentists Board, although the Kenyan government invests in training the health workers, most of these migrate to other countries before serving their country thus Kenya losing investment. He notes that currently the country has declared shortage of nurses. 

He notes that the new system will also look at controlling migration of health workers from the rural to urban areas. 

This, he said, is aimed at reducing the shortage of health personnel and recognising that accessible health workforce is essential for the provision of quality health services.

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But John Wakida notes that there is need to engage with individual governments to honour the Abuja Declaration of increasing the health budget to 15% of the country's total budget. He notes that even when the association understands the reasons why the workers migrate, the situation may not change if policy implementers do not address the issues.

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Beatrice Zulu, the registrar for Zambia Nursing Council says that 322 doctors and 2,376 nurses have migrated from Zambia to other countries in the last five years. 

AMCOA member countries are looking at exchanging information on health workforce migration and will annually provide a status report with the AMCOA Secretariat.

AMCOA is comprised of Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia and Sierra Leone. Others include Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa and Tanzania.

In August this year, the member states signed a protocol with an aim of facilitating the maintenance of adequate, accessible, available and competent health workforce for a strengthened health system within member states.

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