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Medical graduates emigrating for better jobs

Karachi, June 11(The News): Though the State spends Rs 3.5-4 million on a medical graduate, 3,000-4,000 of them leave Pakistan every year, Dr. Shershah Syed, former general secretary, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and a leading gynecologist said.

"Pakistan badly needs doctors, but since jobs are not available on the basis of merit, fresh graduates opt for greener pastures such as the United States, Canada and Australia. In fact, 70 per cent male graduates and 50 per cent female graduates leave the country every year," he added.

A brain drain or human capital flight is an emigration of trained and talented individuals to other nations due to varied reasons; it could be the conflicts, lack of opportunities, health hazards where they are living, discrimination and many other reasons. Investment in higher education is lost when a trained individual leaves and does not return. Also, whatever social capital the individual has been a part of, is reduced by his or her departure.

It was the spokesman for the Royal Society of London who coined the term "brain drain" describing the outflow of scientists and technologists to Canada and the United States in the early 1950s". Its opposite is "brain gain" in the areas to which the talent migrates.

"Brain drain from Pakistan can be contained if medical graduates are offered better financial options, better work environment and upgraded hospitals. It is also taking place due to lack of infrastructure in rural areas where there is dearth of doctors," Dr. Saeed Qureshi, professor of surgery at Civil Hospital, Karachi said. "A fresh graduate after completing his house job is paid Rs 13,000 in a government hospital and Rs 10,000-12,000 in a private hospital that makes it impossible for him to make his ends meet. As a result, he or she prefers to migrate," he said.

"Dow Medical College produces some 300 graduates every year but 80 per cent female graduates migrate to developed countries every year," he disclosed. Fresh medical graduates are so eager to migrate that they are even prone to the maneuvering of fraudulent companies that offer them lucrative jobs abroad. This was vividly demonstrated when advertisements started appearing in a leading English daily that offered lucrative jobs to medical graduates in The Netherlands. A letter was then sent by the PMA Secretary General, Dr. Habibur Rehman Soomro to the ambassador of The Netherlands to confirm the authenticity of these advertisements, in the wake of queries he was getting from many interested doctors. Not surprisingly, the ambassador showed his complete ignorance about the company that was recruiting Pakistani doctors for The Netherlands and later wrote back to PMA Secretary General, Dr. Habibur Rehman about the scheme being a sham.

According to "The Metrics of the Physician Brain Drain," a study conducted by Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D, from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, Washington D.C, "international medical graduates constitute between 23 and 28 percent of physicians in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia; and lower-income countries supply between 40 and 75 percent of these international medical graduates. India, the Philippines, and Pakistan are the leading sources of international medical graduates."

The study further said: "The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia have been the beneficiaries of large-scale immigration of physicians over the past century. Medical-training positions in these developed nations, as well as the opportunities for employment, have proved a strong draw for physicians from many nations. This medical migration, often called the 'brain drain' has attracted frequent commentary and has been the subject of deliberations by the Institute of Medicine and the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) in the United States, both of which have expressed concern about heavy reliance on doctors from abroad."
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