Ethiopia’s Physician Brain-Drain Problem; What to Do?

By Gelane Gemechisa

Since the advent of “organized medical practice” in 1896, when the Russian Red Cross built the first hospital, Ethiopia has experienced a rapid expansion of the delivery of healthcare that lasted well into the 20th century. The establishment of the Ministry of Health in 1948 played pivotal role in centralizing healthcare and leading a concerted effort that resulted in the construction of 93 hospitals (public and private), and a sizable increase in the number of physicians in the public sector.

But, even with donor-funded and much celebrated projects such as the community-based health extension program,the trends in the past twenty years tell a different story. A population boom, with a record rate of growth averaging 2.1 percent over the last five years according to a World Bank report, coupled with minimal infrastructural development has taken a heavy toll on every aspect of the country’s livelihood, especially on the healthcare sector.

In a 2005 strategy report, the World Health Organization, found Ethiopia’s population per primary healthcare facility to be 24,513, a ratio triple the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.  With only 13,469 hospital beds in the entire country, the figure comes to one hospital bed per 5,276 people and exceeds the average ratio for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa five-fold. As bewildering as these figures may seem, facilities and material resources are only a fraction of the complex problems that weigh on healthcare in Ethiopia. Read more

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