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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

Migration of Nurses in South Africa: A Challenge for the New Democratic Government

Nonceba Lubanga, RN, MPH, NYC – ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN’S SERVICES, OFFICE OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH, 150 WILLIAM STREET, New York, NY 10038, 212-676-6891, Nonceba.Lubanga@dfa.state.ny.us

Migration of skilled professional nurses from developing countries is a major concern. This “brain drain” worsens the already depleted health care resources in poor countries and widens the gap of inequities worldwide. Many developed countries have nursing shortage characterized by a decline in the number of people entering the nursing profession. The recruitment drive is then directed to developing countries.

Large numbers of nurses from English speaking African countries emigrate to Britain, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand. The world's poorest countries provide enormous quantities of medical aid to the richest countries. The exodus of experienced nurses makes an already desperate situation more difficult because doctors are scarce, nurses become more experienced in treating and diagnosing patients. This high level of training is why South African nurses are in great demand. British government figures quoted in the London Sunday Times reveal that 1,640 nurses came from South Africa to work in Britain for the year 2000 alone.

Financial drain of losing skilled health professionals can be enormous. The financial cost to South Africa was estimated at 37 million U.S. dollars, according the Lancet (2000).

Reasons cited by South African nurses for leaving the country include, low salaries, unacceptable working conditions, rise of HIV/AIDS etc. Although pay levels are higher in developed countries, nurses are sometimes subjected to exploitation by recruitment agencies, nursing agencies and hospitals. This includes racism, undervaluing of their qualifications, agreements not honored, inaccurate information about the foreign country.

The constitutional right of individual nurses to migrate should be acknowledged while also noting the possible adverse effect that international migration may have on the quality of the health system they leave behind. Unethical recruitment practices should be condemned as it leads to exploitation of nurses and mislead them into accepting job responsibilities and working conditions that are incompatible with their qualifications.

This paper will examine key issues related to migration of South African nurses and the inadequate policy responses to the fundamental causes of nursing shortage that have been the driving force in international recruitment.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No

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