AIDS-ravaged Mozambique to recruit African doctors

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambique hopes to recruit 8,000 doctors from other African nations to improve a health-care system battered by one of the continent’s worst AIDS epidemics, the country’s health minister said on Monday.

There are some 650 doctors serving Mozambique’s estimated 20 million people. That figure is about three times fewer doctors than recommended by international health authorities.

In an interview with Reuters, Health Minister Ivo Garrido said a shortage of doctors and rising numbers of patients, many stricken with AIDS, had created a crisis in state-run hospitals and clinics across the impoverished southern African nation.

“The main problem in the Ministry of Health is the shortage of (medical) staff. We need specialized doctors, not just general practitioners, and we would love to recruit 8,000 African doctors in the next 10 years,” he said.

Garrido, however, added that Mozambique might look to Asia and Latin America to supply doctors if they could not be found in Africa, where many nations are dealing with shortages of doctors, nurses and medical assistants.

About 16 percent of adults in Mozambique, including many health-care workers, have the virus.

The country’s high HIV infection rate has further squeezed its capacity to provide basic medical services, including pre-natal care.

“The shortage of qualified staff is significant in every area, but as with doctors, the deficit is huge and AIDS is going to cause the loss of many workers in our sector,” Garrido said.

HIV testing and treatment in Mozambique are now widely provided by nurses and medical helpers, although health officials have warned poor salaries and enormous workloads threaten their ability to continue doing so.

Nurses in Mozambique, whose health-care system was devastated by a 17-year civil war that ended in 1992, earn on average about $230 a month, while doctors make about double that amount.