The quality of healthcare offered depends very much on the available health workers and, in particular, on health workers from abroad. These migrations, however, lead to shortages in the departure country. A growing global awareness has prompted action in this respect, and Switzerland has contributed to these measures on both international and national level.
A global shortage
The WHO defines health workers as "all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health" (Report 2006). The organisation notes that there is a global shortage of health workers, especially in the developing countries. This shortfall is made worse through workers emigrating to other countries offering more attractive conditions. Certain low income countries are thus losing a significant number of their health workers due to international migration. Between now and 2030, the shortfall in the number of health workers required to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in developing countries is estimated to be 18 million.
International community action
The Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, which was adopted by WHO member States in 2010, marks the global response to this problem. The Code sets out ethical principles applicable to international recruitment and makes recommendations relating, in particular, to:
- recruitment practices,
- the treatment of migrant health personnel,
- practices for international cooperation,
- data gathering.
In addition, in 2016, the WHO adopted a global strategy on human resources for health for the period up until 2030. Finally, the Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth, set up within the UN in March 2016, is tasked with proposing forward measures for creating the millions of jobs required in the health sector between now and 2030.
In Switzerland: reducing dependency on foreign health workers
Switzerland is one of the countries benefiting from international migration, although the majority of its foreign health workers come from neighbouring States. According to the OECD, the number of doctors and nurses trained abroad who are working in the Swiss healthcare system is greater than the average for OECD member States. The Swiss authorities have implemented a number of measures to change this trend:
- Through its "Health2020" national strategy, the Confederation is intending to train sufficient healthcare personnel with the required competences. An additional appropriation was granted in 2016 for increasing the number of doctors trained in Switzerland.
- In the context of the initiative aimed at combating the shortage of qualified personnel in Switzerland, the Federal Council has approved two measures relating to support for family caregivers and interprofessionality in the health sector.
- Switzerland has supported the implementation of the WHO Code through the submission of its national reports in 2012 and 2015, in particular. Since 2008, the FOPH has been coordinating an interdepartmental working party comprising various players who are examining the recommendations made in the Code in the context of Switzerland. This working party has commissioned three studies on statistical documentation, recruitment practices and cooperation practices.
Finally, Switzerland is encouraging close cooperation between the WHO and the OECD in the field of health worker migration.
Last modification 17.08.2018