Friday, May 20, 2005

Nurses down the drain

If there is an influenza pandemic, one of the critical shortages will be hospital beds. Not just the physical beds. As has been often noted, beds don't take care of patients. Nurses take care of patients. So the critical shortage will be staffed beds.

In the US many nurses and nurses aides are resident aliens. Later this year the US is expected to lift restrictions on recruiting foreign health workers to ease the nursing shortage here. With a ten fold pay differential, this is an opportunity for many of these workers. But an Editorial in The Philippine Star reminds us of exactly what this means for the Philippines. Besides the loss of an expected 25,000 nurses and other health workers, there is also the lost investment in their education in Philippine nursing schools. It is a loss The Philippines cannot easily afford:
Already the nation is feeling the loss of a growing number of doctors, nurses and other health workers who are lured by much higher pay overseas. Many rural communities lack even a single physician. In some villages, residents depend only on occasional visits from government workers for basic health care such as dental services and cataract treatments. For serious illnesses, residents rely on herbal medicine and prayers.
Influenza pandemics are global. The Philippines will suffer grievously along with everyone else. But their native daughters and sons will be tending American patients. There is something wrong about this.