Minister laments health sector brain drain


By Don Asoka Wijewardena

Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena yesterday lamented the health sector brain drain with 50 to 60 doctors and nurses leaving the country for greener pastures each week. As a consequence of this more then 10,000 nursing vacancies could not be filled. Even the National Hospital was faced with a chronic shortage of 600 nurses.

He pointed out that though the Health Ministry had been calling for applications to enroll trainee nurses, the response had been negative.

Sri Lanka already had around 29,000 nurses, but the government was in dire need of another 10,000 nurses currently. The government was faced with a problem. Most women were not interested in joining the nursing profession. They preferred other employments instead of nursing.

"I have decided to enroll all the retired nurses, sisters and even the matrons on contract basis to serve the hospitals. This is a critical situation," Minister Sirisena stressed.

The Minister said that the government’s intention was to maintain the health services with at least 50,000 nurses. But it could not be done as the nurses and some doctors were attracted to greener pastures abroad. The government could not block the migration of doctors and nurses. Because they had the right to leave the country for better opportunities. If the government blocked their right to leave. It was in violation of their human rights.

NHSL Director Dr. Anil Jasinghe when contacted for comment said that the NHSL had been experiencing a severe shortage of nurses for a long time. Due to the dearth of qualified nurses some Intensive Care Units (ICUs) had been closed. More patients could be treated if the vacancies were filled.

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