LESOTHO: Lack of healthcare workers a drain on new HIV/AIDS plan
One of only two registered nurses who run the directorate's clinical services department, which oversees all public medical programs on HIV/AIDS, ARVs and sexually transmitted infections in Lesotho.
Maseru, 27 April 2006 (IRIN) - As the Lesotho government prepares to launch a 'Know your HIV status' campaign, a shortage of qualified healthcare workers threatens to derail plans to increase access to AIDS treatment in the mountain kingdom.
According a nurse [who wanted to remain anonymous] at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the countries main referral hospital, 70 nurses tend to around 3,400 patients – an average of close to 50 patients per nurse.
"There is a lot of work and given a chance I would leave the country for greener pastures," she said.
Lesotho's skills base has been bled by a 'brain drain' and health care services have been particularly hard hit, with skilled medical staff seeking higher pay abroad. HIV/AIDS has also taken its toll of health professionals.
Lesotho's 'Know Your Status' campaign, a world first, will offer confidential and voluntary HIV testing and counselling with the aim of reaching all households by the end of 2007.
With an adult prevalence rate of 23.2 percent in a population of 1.8 million, it is estimated that 265,000 people in Lesotho are living with HIV/AIDS, and 49,400 are already in need of life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
But Lesotho is short of 600 nurses, and the success of the new campaign will depend on filling the medical staff void.
"Already the country is about to hire 200 nurses from Kenya to fill some of these positions," Ministry of Health's Human Resources Manager Koenene Leanya said on a national radio station.
Leanya said 16 doctors would be employed from India and the "Clinton Foundation has also made promises to help with extra doctors and nurses".
"We are also revising remuneration to attract personnel into the health sector," he said. Currently a basic monthly salary for a nurse with a general nursing education is R2,900 [US $470] while for midwives the salary is R3,200 [US $520].