The departure of health professionals has eroded the ability of medical and social services in several sub-Saharan countries to deliver even basic health and social needs.
Rwanda, like other East African countries has in the past suffered brain drain in the health sector whereby doctors and health workers have been migrating from their homelands to foreign countries looking for better paying jobs.
In the wake to tackle this problem, the Rwandan government took initiative five years ago to increase the wage rates of health workers.
Salaries of health workers were almost doubled as compared to previous years. Again, there is continuous improvement in the infrastructure and provision of necessary equipments in all health units is an ongoing but gradual process.
Today, health experts are being trained locally and this will play a pivotal role in finding solutions to Brain drain and the low number of health personnel in the country.
Modernisation of the medical school and introduction of the master’s program in Medicine is one of the key successes registered of recent however, more still needs to be done.
Brain drain in Africa has financial, institutional, and societal costs. In the past, African countries used to get little return from their investment in higher education, since too many graduates could leave or fail to return home at the end of their studies.
The faculty of medicine is an example of the institutions that the government has invested heavily to cover the costs of masters or specialisation programmes in various medical disciplines.
Over 50 post-graduate students are said to be under going studies in various medical disciplines and the first graduates are expected at the end of this year.
This will presumably solve the problem of the low number of medical practitioners in the country. It will also help peripheral areas of the country get equipped with enough expertise.
Recent complaints by the society and other concerned authorities in the health sector about the poor quality of services in rural health centres partly hinges on the lack of enough equipment and secondly, lack of enough and qualified expertise.
Many district hospitals lack medical consultants who are specialised. As a result they have to transfer a large number of patients to referral hospitals that in turn get crowded.
For example, Kigali Central Teaching Hospital formerly known as CHUK handles transfer cases from over 30 health centres around the country.
Most patients are transferred in critical condition and only arrive at CHUK almost at the verge of death. The result is a hospital that registers a high number of inexplicable deaths.
There is also need to improve efforts to sensitize people for regular health check-ups to minimise the death rates and minimise pressure on health experts working in referral hospitals.
Additionally, high numbers of transferred patients limit accessibility of the neighbouring population to services from our big hospitals.
For example if we have many patients from Nyagatare and Rulindo seeking medical care from CHUK, then a patient from Kiyovu will not get adequate accessibility to the required medical services.
More so, it is not realistic for someone residing in Kiyovu or Biryogo, Nyamirambo to look for a transfer from Muhima so as to get to CHUK, because at the end of it all, they will in turn get transferred to King Faisal in case of Radiotherapy treatment.
One of the tangible benefits of training ours local medical officers is that government spends relatively less resources to educate them as compared to those who are trained from overseas..
However some specialities require high level of training and accessibility in terms of infrastructure that we do not have here. In this case people have to be sent abroad for further skill building.
Therefore, increase in the number of health practitioners will answer most of the Brain drain challenges. Rwanda has nearly 250 medical professionals working in a population of nearly 9.9 million people.
This clearly shows that the ration of doctors to our population is very low.
However, with the unity of the Diaspora and our community great contribution and hence solutions can be found. This link once created is important for the development in the country’s health sector.
It can also be pointed out that the relationship between African governments and the African diaspora has previously remained a major barrier to finding solutions.
With this, virtual participation in nation building without physical relocation is one of the tangible solutions to Brain drain. It also shows promise as a means to engage the African diaspora in development efforts.
This policy has recently been implemented in Rwanda especially through the promotion of One Dollar Campaign.