Across most parts of the world, medical doctors enjoy a level of prestige & job satisfaction which the majority of us can only dream of. In Ethiopia, a disastrously overburdened healthcare system is causing many doctors to fear that they’ve made the wrong career choice, according to a survey.

The survey, conducted among 687 physicians from 49 public hospitals across the country, underscored a dangerously ill-equipped health system in Ethiopia which places enormous strain on doctors – while placing millions of lives at risk. According to a recent assessment by the United Nations, the East African nation is only capable of meeting 55% of its routine health requirements. Without drastic intervention, many observers fear a total meltdown of the country’s fragile medical infrastructure.

Vast shortages define Ethiopia’s healthcare landscape. Chronic shortages of medicine, trained medical professionals & hospital space mean that getting sick – even with illnesses that are initially minor – can prove life threatening in the long-term. Due to high levels of resource scarcity, many doctors are forced to ration medical support to patients, limiting access to the services, drugs, equipment & bed space that patients desperately need. This is particularly true in public hospitals & clinics.

Lacking adequate supplies & support, Ethiopian doctors must often provide services which they know to be sub-par. According to the survey, conducted by BMC Health Services Research, 54% of the doctors who participated said they believed that patients had died due to resource scarcity. The overwhelming majority of physicians – 90%- reported feeling so distraught by the state of local healthcare that they regretted having chosen to become doctors.

Many eventually opt out of medicine or choose to emigrate, further weakening an already fragile healthcare system. To address the problem, the Ethiopian government has in recent years sought to saturate universities with medical students in an endeavor to boost the supply of doctors. Yet, the program has been fraught with challenges: observers say that the existing number of teaching hospitals is inadequate to properly train the burgeoning number of medical students. Classroom
sizes & student-to-teacher ratios are extremely high, limiting the quality of instruction.

Medical schools are under-resourced in terms of equipment, compromising the level of expertise that medical students can glean. Combined, these factors drastically diminish the capacity of new medical school graduates to become first-class doctors.

Ethiopia is not along in its struggles. In fact, says philanthropist Pascal Mukadi, healthcare inequality is one of Africa’s universal challenges.

“We’re committed to finding solutions to this challenge” said Mukadi at the recent Johannesburg launch of his NGO, the Pascal Mukadi Foundation (PMF). “We’re investing heavily in forging the partnerships that will bolster access to quality healthcare across Africa – especially for the poor.”

Through PMF, Mukadi has been on a campaign to rally global support for healthcare development programs on the continent. As part of this initiative, he arranges for international medical experts & healthcare investors to travel to Africa on training & development missions. By promoting skills transfer & investment, Mukadi aims to revitalize & revamp the healthcare infrastructure across the continent.

Ethiopia is within his sights.

“We’re laying the groundwork right now in Ethiopia for potential programs that we can launch” says Mukadi.

“Ethiopia has phenomenal potential as a nation. As PMF, we want to help to unleash it.”

Written by: Mambande Thomas

                      Editor MFM Media

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