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PAHO launches new study on migration of health workers in the Caribbean

The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has launched a new study that will survey current migration trends of health care workers in the Caribbean (CARICOM) Region. The results of the survey will be used to develop recommendations and address the challenges that migration poses for the health sector of countries involved.

The study will be conducted over a three-month period in 16 CARICOM countries and territories: Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos Islands and the English-speaking islands of the OECS. The research team is planning to meet with representatives of ministries of health, labor and education, hospital managers, general practitioners, primary health care provider groups, amongst others.

The outcomes of the survey will inform policy on health workforce migration in the Caribbean and contribute to the implementation of the WHO/PAHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel.

“The Region will soon face one of the most critical shortages in the labour market of health workers in its history if nothing is done to reverse the trend of low in-migration and high out-migration levels within the Anglo-Caribbean”, said Jessie Schutt-Aine, coordinator of the PAHO Subregional Program for the Eastern Caribbean. “The undersupply of health practitioners will impact negatively on both the quality and sustainability of health systems, especially in the smaller islands of the region”.

The migration and shortages of health care workers in the Americas, and particularly in the Caribbean Region, are impacting significantly health systems and services. The problem is global in nature, with health workforce mobility increasing to meet the estimated 40 million new health care jobs required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to health by 2030, according to the latest projections from WHO and the World Bank.

The PAHO Office of the Caribbean Subregional Program Coordination, with support from PAHO’s Department of Health Systems and Services, is working to address migration-related shortages of human resources for health in the Caribbean.

“The situation with regards to health care workers in the Caribbean and in most countries in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is critical, with many persons opting to leave the region for better working conditions, higher salaries, and better job security”, said Erika Wheeler, PAHO Subregional Advisor on Human Resources for Health.

The recently approved PAHO Strategy on Human Resources for Universal Health (CSP29/10, 24 July 2017) urges countries to increase public investment in human resources for health, especially at the first level of care. The strategy aims to guide national policies to cover a shortfall of nearly 800,000 health workers in the Region of the Americas.

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