Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Canada poaches the developing world of its much needed medical talent

Giving aid with one hand, taking MDs with the other

Aug 07, 2007 04:30 AM

Daniel Morris

It sounds like the work of a tourism promotion board in British Columbia: "Snow-capped mountains, fertile valleys, lush green forests and one of the world's most spectacular coastlines."

But the encouragement to come to the province is not meant for backpackers or vacationing families. It is from the website of Health Match BC, a group that seeks to lure a seemingly odd but highly prized demographic – doctors from foreign countries.

Health Match BC did not respond to requests to comment for this article. But they are only one of many groups promoting the benefits of Canadian life to foreign doctors. Indeed, faced with shortages of resources and manpower, provincial health-care systems across the country have long looked overseas to fill vacancies.

These doctors historically came mainly from the U.K., the United States, or other wealthy countries whose own health-care systems, despite flaws, provided world-class care to their citizens.

Now things are different. Today in Canada 10 per cent of the doctors come from South Africa, a country where almost a third of public health posts are vacant and the effects of AIDS, high infant mortality rates, and other scourges devastate lives with appalling regularity.

A report issued earlier this year by the international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/M̩decins Sans Fronti̬res makes clear just how high the cost of foreign recruitment Рor what critics call poaching Рhas been.

The report details the long lines, lack of drugs, and lack of personnel that are hindering the organization's work in southern Africa. "There are simply not enough nurses, doctors, and medical assistants," a nurse in Malawi says. MSF warns that its inability to expand access to HIV/AIDS treatment threatens to lead to more unnecessary illness and death.


Moreover, as one doctor in Canada pointed out to the CBC earlier this year, doctors have just as much right as anyone else to globalization's promise of free movement of capital and labour. "It's a freedom of choice. Whoever wants to come, I think he should be able to come," said Dr. Syed Peer, a doctor in Newfoundland who was born in India.


For its part, the Canadian Medical Association advocates that Canada become self-sufficient in physician supply. "Wealthy Canadians cannot and must not rely on the systematic recruitment of doctors from countries that cannot legitimately afford it," said Dr. Peter Barrett, a former CMA president, in 2005.

Read it all here.

This reveals yet another absurdity of our immigration system. On the one hand we believe in helping the developing world yet on the other hand we bribe away from the developing world its most precious resource: the human resource. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) chastised the West, naming Canada, for depriving the developing world of its health care professionals.

The most compassionate thing Canada could do is to train its own physicians and stop the importation of doctors from the third world. We can't change the "it's all about me" attitude so eloquently made, and so appropriately made by, that upper-Caste Indian doctor living in Newfoundland. Most people go into the medical profession because of the money. That's why Canadian doctors go to the United States and South African and Indian doctors come to Canada. Less are health professionals because they "want to help people."

If the brain drain is bad for Canada, then why does Canada encourage a third world brain drain to its shores? Or is this type of hypocrisy expected and allowed for a leftist, liberal, and overly permissive Canadian society?

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