IT is a known fact that Tanzania faces an acute shortage of medical workers in its health care system. It is also evident that there is unemployment of health workers who have been trained.
This situation presents a paradox of sorts - an inadequacy in number and yet unemployment for qualified trained personnel.
This, indeed, is a sorry situation for a country that has serious health care challenges, including the fact that a huge proportion of its population has no access to qualified health personnel and is thus dying from ailments that can be cured by those with elementary knowledge of medicare.
The problem of scarcity of health personnel is more pervasive in the rural areas of the country than in the urban centres. The way out of this sticky situation is for government to support the local councils through providing incentives like better pay and accommodation for health personnel.
The truth of the matter is that more highly-trained health personnel are deserting the country and seeking greener pastures abroad in multitudes. Tanzanian doctors, nurses and other health professionals are found in America, Europe, the Middle East and other African countries, where they are well-remunerated and have requisite equipment for the practice of their profession.
It is difficult to see some of these professionals accepting to come back home and be subjected to the same kind of conditions that their colleagues working here are being put through.
For one, the pay is miles apart between those in Tanzania and those abroad. Also very importantly, those abroad have up-to-date equipment for their practice, and equally importantly, the environments cannot be compared. The intractable problem of corruption in the system contributes towards the drain of this nation’s human resources to these other countries.
There is also the problem of inadequate places for young doctors to serve as apprentice house officers. This has left most of them hanging around after qualification. For such young people, any offers for them to go to other countries for the mandatory housemanship are seen as golden opportunities.
They even find the operating environments in such countries better than what obtains in Tanzania and more often than not, stay back in those countries or go on to other countries.
What this means for our country is further depletion of the stock of trained health personnel who would have bridged the yawning gap that exists in the country’s patient-doctor ratio. What this means is that more Tanzanians will miss the attention of qualified health personnel; more Tanzanians in the rural areas will be at the mercy of quacks.
What this goes to show is that the problem is not with the people, but with the system. If the pay is comparative, if the equipment is up-to-date and the people are trained to use it well, and if the environment is conducive, our trained health care personnel will prefer to stay in the country.
This is a serious challenge for government. It must evolve new strategies for the proper funding of the health sector. There is need for a competitive salary structure; there is need for proper equipment of health institutions; and there is need for rehabilitation of infrastructures such as electricity supply, road networks and portable water.