Critical shortage of skilled health worker ails global health

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello TD addressed the delegates of the Irish Forum for Global Health Conference in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). The two day international conference addresses one of the greatest challenges facing global health - the critical shortage of skilled health personnel, especially in poorer countries and populations and in remote areas of the world.
Minister Costello said:  "Improving healthcare is one of the greatest challenges facing the developing world today. Building functioninghealthcare systems is a key objective of our aid programme. Irish Aid supports our partners in the developing world to strengthen their own healthcare systems, so that improvements will be sustainable over the long-term. Ireland's commitment to global health is further strengthened today with our decision to join the European ESTHER Alliance. Ireland's membership of this European network will facilitate twinning between Irish hospitals and those in developing countries so that we may share experience, best practice and expertise."
The Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) has reported that a billion people in 57 countries worldwide face a daily struggle to access basic healthcare due to health workforce shortages and uneven distribution of health workers within countries. Sub-Saharan Africa bears 25% of the global burden of disease, but only has 3% of the world's health workers.

Dr. David Weakliam, Chairman of the Irish Forum for Global Health said "Health workers are the cornerstone of every country's health system. Without them, life-saving vaccines and drugs would not be delivered safely and effectively."

"A more effective response is needed to address the critical shortage of skilled health personnel in low income countries. This requires the attention of all organisations seeking to address the health needs of these countries, with coordinated support for responses aligned to each countries national health plans and priorities," Dr. Weakliam continued.

"Over the last decade, international donors and organisations have significantly increased funding for drugs, vaccines and other interventions to combat diseases of the poor. But despite the establishment of the Global Health Workforce Alliance in 2006, investment in the workforce to deliver these lifesaving interventions has been inadequate.  Dr. Weakliam continued. "Bilateral and multilateral donors as well as Global Health Initiatives need to support health systems strengthening and increase funding for initiatives to improve the health workforce".

Speaking at the conference, Prof. Ruairi Brugha, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in RCSI said "All countries should fully implement the WHO Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel.  Ireland is making many positive contributions to global health and to building health workforce capacity, especially in Africa.

However, given Ireland's dependency on foreign trained doctors and nurses over the past decade in particular, there is an onus on health service policy makers, planners and professional bodies to commit to self-sufficiency as a policy objective and to move away from excessive dependence on foreign trained health professionals. This requires good management and retention of the existing workforce to prevent the large outflow of migrant and Irish educated health workers from Ireland."

More than 60 presentations will be given at the conference on topics such as responding to 'Current challenges in the Human Resources for Health Crisis', 'Strengthening the health workforce to respond to HIV and other major diseases', 'Strengthening and supporting the health workforce' and 'Innovative approaches and ICT solutions'.

Key speakers at the conference include Dr Mubashar Sheikh, Executive Director, Global Health Workforce Alliance; Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng, Minister for Health, Lesotho; Prof Eilis McGovern, President of RCSI; Dr. Vincent O'Neill, Director of Policy Planning and Effectiveness, Irish Aid; Mr Cathal Magee, CEO, Health Service Executive; Ms Sheila Dickson, President of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, South African singer and UNICEF Ambassador.


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Spyghananews, Accra, Ghana
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