Doctor Osea Volavola assists a patient at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva. Picture: IVAMERE RASABASABA
FIJI lost an average of 26 doctors annually in the last 10-15 years to greener pastures, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry estimated that at least 400 doctors who were locally trained left the country during this period.
The Government fully sponsored trainee doctors at an average cost of $20,000 per year or about $100,000 per trainee for the five-year training.
In other words, the loss of investment to the Government because of the exodus of doctors amounted to around $40m in the last 15 years.
Health Minister Doctor Neil Sharma told The Fiji Times the shortage of medical professionals was a global phenomena.
In his strategic plan for the next four years, Dr Sharma was focused on human resource development.
In a statement issued by the Information Ministry, Dr Sharma said staff retention would be addressed in depth to meet the acute shortage of health professionals.
This, he believed, was vital to ensure sustainability in the delivery of health services to Fiji.
"Increased ongoing education locally and abroad will need to be saddled with career orientation for our young workforce to improve on retention strategies," Dr Sharma said.
While retaining staff was a major challenge, the ministry revealed it was committed to ensuring capacity building was implemented across all levels and that skills were maintained at an acceptable level.
Ministry permanent secretary Doctor Salanieta Saketa said there were more than 300 doctors in Fiji including public and private practitioners.
"Retention strategies include provision of training opportunities both local and abroad, support by way of modernising equipment, improve work conditions and provide necessary infrastructure to support their newly acquired specialised skills," she said.
"There are also provisions of housing in rural settings and in urban setting for those who are eligible.
"We have increased current establishment with additional 20 posts per year for the next three years beginning 2011."
A paper that appeared in the Fiji Medical Journal in 2006 and written by Doctors Wame Baravilala, Sereima Bale, Kimberly Oman, Eddie McCaig , Elizabeth Rogers and Robert Moulds said in spite of good intentions, donor nations such as Australia could inadvertently become major beneficiaries of their own aid, to the detriment of the countries they were trying to assist.
"Therefore, attention should be given to try to prevent this from occurring. Australia needs to address its own doctor shortages and adhere to ethical recruitment standards," the paper said.
"Fiji needs to determine and address the reasons for dissatisfaction of doctors working in the public sectors."