Theater of Cruelty

Brains? Happily

The Minister of Development's proposal for the import of nurses has received much undeserved mouthing.


[30. March 2007] «Health-robbery», wrote the Friend of the Fatherland. "Ethically indefensible," said Atle Sommerfeldt of Church Aid. "Can't really believe it," said the Nursing Association's Bente Slaatten. Former Minister of Health Dagfinn Høybråten "thought it was April 1st". They are shocked by the proposal that Erik Solheim makes in the latest issue of World Magazine X, where the Minister of Development talks about the possibility of recruiting labor to the health sector from other countries. Under the title "We cannot meet the need ourselves", the Minister wanted a new immigration debate and targeted assistance to develop more health personnel.

Labor Minister Bjarne Håkon Hanssen toured the criticism of Høybråten and the Nursing Association with conviction. He appeared good because the criticism was bad. Erik Solheim is absolutely right when he points out that the Norwegian debate on immigration is narrow and that the need for labor will grow in the future. The prime minister's main focus in X was also precisely the issue he is accused of overlooking: The danger that the rich countries' need for competent immigrants will lead to brain drain from poor countries. To remedy this, Solheim suggests that more Norwegians receive treatment in other countries and that Norway pays the education to the imported health personnel. He will also work for international regulations that can prevent aggressive recruitment.

However, it is worth raising the question of whether the import of health personnel will lead to the loss of developing countries. The question does not have as obvious an answer as the debate gives the impression. Høybråten told TV 2 about his trip to Malawi, where he saw a health care system struggling with resources and where only one in ten doctors remained in their home country. He should also listen to the Federal Chief of Nurses in the same country. She envisions a possible win-win situation, where Norway pays for the education of twice as many nurses who come to Norway from Malawi.

The Nurses' Association is right that we have a lot of untapped labor in Norway as well. We have a lot to gain from getting more people from the benefit into working life, by giving full-time positions to the many who work involuntarily part-time and by improving the conditions for nurses so that more people stay longer in the profession. But Norway still faces an acute, acute shortage of labor. In the health sector, we need 130.000 new nurses by 2050. It is just one of the many sectors of working life, and Norway is just one of the countries facing such problems in the future. Then the solution is not to spend time misunderstanding the minister, but to use the power to see how the problems can be solved. The goal is not brain drain, but more good brains.

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