In 2015 Trinidad and Tobago came close to reaching a deal with the Ugandan government to allow its health personnel migrate to work in the duo countries in a bilateral agreement before this opportunity was intercepted by activists’ protestation and court cases suing the government for this action.On Friday, 25th August 2017 at Imperial Royale hotel in Kampala when ACHEST was closing a three year project; Brain Drain to Brain Gain that was funded by the European Union through WHO; Prof. Francis Omaswa, the Executive Director of African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) noted that it was a missed opportunity on Uganda’s part to have declined the Trinidad and Tobago opportunity citing the many medical graduates who are languishing in unemployment as the government struggles to absorb many of the graduates into the public facilities.
Dr. Patrick Kadama. Director Health Policy at ACHEST advised that Uganda should tweak its policy instruments to ensure that our unemployed people in Uganda are taken care of in other countries to the benefit of the country.
The WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel should be a core component of bilateral, national, regional and global responses to the challenges of health personnel migration and health systems strengthening. Article IV of the Code states that health personnel, health professional organizations, professional councils and recruiters should seek to cooperate fully with regulators, national and local authorities in the interests of patients, health systems and of society in general.
Migration of health workforce cannot be stopped; health workers enjoy the same basic rights as individuals to move across boarders according to their preferences for work or living environment beyond their country of birth, according to applicable laws and procedures disciplining migration, but what is needed are a better and more ethical management of health worker migration.
Dr. Nkolo Ebo, WHO National Professional Officer for TB in Uganda warned that: “If remuneration and working conditions does not change, health workforce crisis will not change.”
Prof. Pius Okong, the Chairperson Health Service Commission while giving a speech on the Dynamics of Health workforce recruitment and retention in Uganda highlighted long recruitment cycle coupled with manual recruitment process that is very slow, inefficient and easy to abuse as a challenge to health workforce recruitment and retention. A switch to E-recruitment system that will ensure timely appointments and absorption for efficient service delivery and minimization of unused wage is a great necessity, he noted.
While Prof. Omaswa advised that in order to manage the health workforce migration, member states should strive to create the health workforce and work towards establishing effective health workforce planning, training, recruitment and retention strategies that will reduce their need to recruit migrant health personnel. Policies and measures to strengthen the health workforce should be appropriate for the specific conditions of each country.
The major milestone achieved by the Brain Drain to Brain Gain project whose aim was to generate momentum and accelerating progress on the WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health personnel, its implementation and supporting work in each member country of whom Uganda is a member was seeing Uganda report on the WHO Code.
The meeting formed a technical working group that will meet to draw a road map to engage policy makers as a follow up.