Sudanese Doctors: Opportunities in the Face of Challenges
The Federal Minister of Health (FMOH) for Sudan, Mr. Bahar Abugarda, introduced the Migration of Sudanese Doctors: Dynamics & Opportunities Conference in Galway, Ireland on June 9, 2012, by outlining the achievements, challenges, and a way forward for Sudan’s health system. Like many presenters at the conference, he did not shy away from discussing the difficulties Sudan faces, particularly in terms of Sudanese doctor migration. However, the FMOH and many other presenters also expressed similar sentiments to Dr Faisal Mihaimeed who stated, “We hope this conference will mark the beginning of a new dawn on the [Ireland-Sudan] relationship” on these issues.
Minister Abugarda discussed the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases Sudan’s health system now faces. He noted that coverage of primary healthcare and equitable access remain key challenges. Sudan’s health workforce is concentrated in the large urban centres, creating problems of access in rural areas. There are still weaknesses in the nursing, paramedic, and midwifery sectors in terms of training and capacity. In particular, the Minister stated a need to focus on investing in postgraduate education and training, reproductive health, human resources for health, and health systems management. Spending on healthcare as a percentage of the national budget has yet to reach its targets and needs to increase dramatically. While there has been a slight increase in spending over the past few years, reduction of maternal mortality rates, reduction of child mortality, and improvements in TB and malaria control, the figures are still cause for concern.
Ms. Nuha Ibrahim, researcher at Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Global Health, presented on the challenges posed by doctor migration from Sudan. She discussed the push and pull factors that lead many doctors and medical students to emigrate from Sudan to Ireland. With this migration comes a loss of capacity, as well as increased coordination and sustainability challenges. A retention strategy for healthcare professionals in Sudan and migration management (a primary focus of this conference) is still a broad area that requires additional attention and work.
Despite these daunting challenges, there are many opportunities for strengthening Sudan’s health system and tackling issues of doctor migration. Minister Abugarda suggested several ways forward for Sudan. Interventions such as scaling up postgrad medical education, scaling up programmes in nursing, midwifery, and paramedical training, focusing on quality assurance, and using and adhering to the World Health Organization’s Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel are being considered and implemented. Notably, Minister Abugarda also expressed the need to focus on collaborative efforts with Sudanese doctors abroad and research institutions (including Irish institutions, like the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland). He suggested a mobilisation of expertise in host countries.
In terms of doctor migration, Sudan is using the National Health Observatory to keep a database on emigrating health workers. Collecting better data will be essential for improving migration and capacity-building policies. There is now a greater political awareness surrounding migration issues, which will help in the coming years as Sudan, Ireland, and many other countries around the world seek to become self-sufficient in supplying their own healthcare workforce. While challenges remain, the Migration of Sudanese Doctors Conference also highlighted progress that has been made in this area and opportunities for the future.
This article was written as part of a series of articles written by the Key Correspondent Team (KC Team) covering the Migration of Sudanese Doctors: Dynamics & Opportunities Conference.
For more information on the KC Team go to: www.keycorrespondents.org