Increase in Training of Doctors called for by World Medical Association

An increase in the education and training of doctors and other health professionals has been called for by the World Medical Association as part of a move by the World Health Organisation to extend the functions of healthcare workers.

Commenting on new WHO guidelines on task shifting, adopted last weekend to address the human resources crisis in health care, the WMA said that the critical shortage of doctors and other health professionals in countries faced with the burden of HIV/AIDS and other related diseases required that all measures should be used to address the needs of vulnerable populations.

Dr. Jon Snaedal, President of the WMA, said: ‘One of those measures is to train people specifically to provide health services that are normally provided by doctors or nurses. This approach has been named task shifting and could as well be named task broadening, as tasks are not shifted directly from any health professional to another. It is, rather, extending the functions of specific healthcare workers to meet needs.

‘Such an initiative can be acceptable under certain circumstances. But projects on task shifting should be financed on top of other health expenditure. It is also imperative to address the migration of health professionals as that is one of the major causes of the problem. We need to ensure that the education and training of doctors and other health professionals should be increased to sustain the health service in the long run.

‘If these conditions are met, the WMA is willing to work with the WHO and other stakeholders such as the National Medical Associations in the relevant countries to secure quality and sustainability of the service provided.’

Dr. Snaedal’s comments follow last weekend’s meeting in Addis Ababa, hosted by the WHO and the Ethiopian Health Authorities, which resulted in new WHO guidelines on task shifting, being adopted.