Sunday, 21 September 2008

Charity surely begins at home?

I caught a very small snippet of news last night on the local 24 Hour news channel, and very strangely, I cannot easily find this item on the internet – except on BuaNews.

It appears that South Africa has signed a cooperation agreement with Burundi to support the rebuilding of their local health system.

The news article on BuaNews and the item I saw on the TV differ slightly.
BuaNews appears to indicate that the agreement will allow Burunidan patients to more readily access medical treatment in South Africa, and assistance with training specialists and hospital managers.

The cooperation agreement also makes provision for the referral of Burundian patients to South African public health facilities as well as the short-term capacity building of specialists and hospital managers.

However, when eTV interviewed the South African Health Minister, and asked about the utilisation of already limited South African resources, the Minister argued that this coorperation and the spreading of a scarce commodity over a greater demand was an example to the rest of the world of how African countries could work together.
The implication of what she was saying sounded to me more like South African specialists and hospital managers would be being sent to Burundi to assist in that country.

As I work in the health industry in South Africa, I can see the impact of these scarce resources – doctors, nurses and specialists – being stretched to breaking point… They simply LEAVE South Africa for greener pastures – mainly the UK and Australia.

South African Health MinisterSo if you were informed by the South African Health department that you as a nurse were REQUIRED to spend some time in Burundi – a foreign country, with a new language, a new culture, and far from your own home, but for the same salary, why wouldn’t you choose to move to Australia – a foreign country, with the SAME language, a SIMILAR culture, far from your own home, but for potentially a higher salary?

Surely South Africa should focus on ensuring that we have the infrastructure locally to service and support our OWN people and population, before we make gallant gestures to our neighbouring countries, and even those that AREN’T our neighbours?

If you are looking for a doctor and can’t find one – might I suggest you go to your local international airport? They are probably sitting in the international departure lounge.


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