Even before the onset of Covid-19 universal healthcare services all over the world were facing an uncertain future because of critical imbalances between the demand and supply of essential frontline healthcare workers, The Financial Times reports.
Although the global pandemic has exacerbated the situation, structural problems such as a lack of long-term workforce planning, poor retention, the international mobility of health workers and retirement from an ageing workforce all pre-date it.
“For far too long, the health sector has been sidelined in discussions on health workforce mobility, despite the significant impact this mobility has had, and continues to have, in low- and middle-income countries globally,” explained Dr Khetrapal Singh, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for South-East Asia at a tri-regional meeting in June that set out to address the challenges related to the international mobility of health professionals, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Around 30 per cent of all foreign-born or foreign-trained doctors or nurses working in OECD countries originate from lower-middle and low-income countries and account for three to six per cent of all migrant doctors and nurses. In the US, for example, more than 2.6 million immigrants, including 314,000 refugees, were employed as healthcare workers in 2018, representing 28 per cent of physicians, 24 per cent of dentists and 38 per cent of home health aides.
As Dr Mark Britnell, KPMG’s Global Chairman for Healthcare, Government & Infrastructure, explained in his 2019 book Human: Solving the Global Workforce Crisis in Healthcare, the scale of the problem was recognised in 2017 at the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health.
“The Dublin Declaration on Human Resources for Health said we will need around 40 million more healthcare workers by 2030, but we are in danger of being 18 million short,” writes Dr Britnell. “That’s more than one in five of the 80 million we will need.”
What is the cure for the global healthcare worker shortage? (Financial Times)