February 23, 2016

Haiti’s Ever-Growing Problem of Brain Drain

Haiti health care, diaspora

Human Capital Sprouting Wings and Flying Away from the Haitian Healthcare System: How to Keep Doctors in Haiti

What is brain-drain and what is its Impact?

Brain drain is also known as human capital flight and it refers to individuals who are well-educated leaving their country of origin for various reasons including earning potential, collaborative work, access to technology and other items as well.

Some individuals have noted a brain drain can actually strengthen a country’s economy such as is the case in India because it allows and encourages development of Global resources and connections that funnel resources back into the originating country.

While this might be a strong possibility for a large country, smaller countries such as Haiti do not deal with brain drain in quite the same way.

For economically challenged countries like Haiti this means that there will be massive holes left in Haiti’s potential and ability to thrive domestically when human capital takes flight.  We find this is especially true when it comes to healthcare. Physicians and healthcare staff leave the country and often leave no one behind to take their place. This leaves Haitians deficient in healthcare and often not having access to a qualified healthcare provider.

81% of Haiti’s university educated professionals have left the country to work in other places where pay is higher, conditions are better and facilities are more advanced. This has had a devastating effect on the people and families of Haiti.

As educated healthcare professionals have left Haiti for the developed world, the effects are obvious. Hospital wards don’t have enough staff. Rural health clinics sometimes have to close down completely because there are no doctors or nurses to run them. Maternity units and even laboratories are drastically understaffed.

The quality of care remains at a substandard level which means that diseases go untreated and sometimes even undetected. Existing staff are overworked, overstressed and easily burned out.

The overall standard of care decreases to a level that is simply unacceptable. Patients suffer and in some cases families don’t even take their sick to an appropriate healthcare facility because they are not confident that the care they would receive is any better than at home.

Sometimes families will turn to under qualified or unqualified practitioners. Or they’ll simply go without health care at all. This of course has a devastating effect on the health of the whole country and has a ripple effect in that it creates other problems such as poor morale, inability to work, and a tendency to be more susceptible to common everyday illnesses.

What is the Current Status of the Haitian Healthcare System?
According to current statistics Haiti has around 25 physicians and 11 nurses per 100,000 people. Troubled sanitation systems and inadequate nutrition continue to wreak havoc on Haitian health.

The World Health Organization estimates only 43% of Haitians (of vaccination age) receive adequate immunization, and this is crippling life expectancy to an average of 63 years.

What is the answer, then?

How can Haiti keep its health care professionals at home? What will entice doctors, nurses, and technicians to stay?

One obvious answer, but equally obvious as the paramount challenge, is to pay these professionals more. Perhaps grants need to be acquired from the international community or temporary financial aid put in place with the purpose of keeping Haitian doctors at home.

Haitian health care staff will be much more likely to remain at home if their facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment; if they have access to current technologies; if their instrumentation isn’t archaic and out of date. If these things are in place, it will be an incentive to keep professionals at home, but this will mostly likely require temporary assistance from outside the country.

Healthcare professionals enjoy being part of a community–operating as part of a synergistic group rather than being lone rangers. There is collaborative energy that can happen when a group comes together–or when they at least know they can reach out to each other for support or help or encouragement.

As Haitian doctors and nurses build their healthcare community, it will take on its own impetus and become a thing that grows naturally.

None of the above answers will come easily, of course. But if the international community gets involved and adopts a posture of helping Haiti in the short-term so that long-term medical independence is achieved, it would be a great thing. It would turn around a situation that is deplorable and enable the Haitian people to live healthy and confident lives.

At Spark Health, Inc, we feel that we are that organization! We are the spark to create the funding, resources and opportunities for Haitians to experience better health care while incentivizing health care professionals to remain active in their home country.