Rich countries are using their economic might to buy and hoard PPE, vaccines, and now nursing staff.
Poaching nursing staff from poorer countries raises serious ethical questions, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) has warned.
A report published by the organisation reveals that during the Omicron wave wealthy countries intensified their recruitment of nurses from poorer countries to bolster their own workforces.
In an interview with Reuters, ICN CEO Howard Catton warned; “We have absolutely seen an increase in international recruitment to places like the UK, Germany, Canada, and the United States”.
Data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) reveals that a massive 17% of all registered nurses and midwives trained outside of the UK.
Mr. Catton compared the move to the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
He added; “I really fear this ‘quick fix solution’ – it’s a bit similar to what we’ve been seeing with PPE (personal protective equipment) and vaccines where rich countries have used their economic might to buy and to hoard – if they do that with the nursing workforce it will just make the inequity even worse.”
An ethical dilemma.
The ICN has questioned how poorer countries would manage to cope with the demand Omicron has placed on health services if wealthier countries, often with better pay and working conditions, are poaching their workforce.
A Conservative Party pre-election pledge to increase the number of nursing staff by 50,000 included a plan to recruit 12,500 more from overseas.
According to data from the ICN, even before the pandemic, there was a global shortage of around 6 million nurses, with nearly 90% of those shortages in low and lower-middle-income countries.
“The bottom line is that some people would look at this and say this is rich countries offloading the costs of educating new nurses and health workers,” Mr. Catton added.
The group has called for an international collaborative to boost the number of nursing staff in a fair and equitable way.
“We need a coordinated, collaborative, concerted global effort which is underpinned by serious investment, not just warm words and platitudes and applause,” he concluded.