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Botswana Loses Health Workers to UK

FILE - Ambulances line up outside the Royal London Hospital in the Whitechapel area of east London, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

Botswana faces an exodus of health workers to the United Kingdom, with more than 700 expected to migrate. Authorities in the UK have confirmed the first group of 66 will report for duty in August.

The Botswana Nurses Union earlier this year reached an agreement with a leading UK-based recruiting agency, NEU Professionals.

The local union’s spokesperson, Aobakwe Lesolame, says up to 700 Botswana nurses have signed up to work in the UK. He says the health workers are lured by prospects of better pay and working conditions.

“There are a couple of reasons; Firstly, there has been a desire to leave Botswana. Botswana is a developing country, and I think a lot of professions, not only nurses, they desire to work in the first world where there are advanced systems, better remuneration and a lot other benefits,” Lesolame said.

Lesolame argues the government has not adequately taken care of health workers and that treating the nurses better would reverse the brain drain.

“They will not leave in droves if working conditions were better, if progression was better and if also they were recognized and appreciated for their hard and good work they are doing,” he said.

Botswana’s Ministry of Health senior public relations officer Christopher Nyanga says it is regrettable to lose health workers to other countries.

“The departure of nurses in huge numbers could definitely affect health service delivery in Botswana,” said Nyanga. “Health is one of the most sought-after services in the country, therefore. It is important that all resources necessary for the full function of the health system are in place.”

He says the government is in the process of improving the conditions of service for nurses.

“It is for this reason that the ministry has initiated some changes that could see health care providers, including nurses, seeing an improvement in their conditions of service. The ministry has also started a massive training initiative that will see many nurses getting enrolled for higher training in various fields in the nursing profession,” Nyanga said.

The UK is facing a health care worker shortage with increased demand due to COVID-19.

However, African countries will also "shoulder an increasing burden of workforce shortages" amid the pandemic, according to a World Health Organization report.