‘Brain drain’ creating holes in Kenya’s medical field

By September 27, 2010

Kenya (MNN) — A lack of
investment and a ruinous brain-drain have left Kenyans with few quality health
facilities. While that is slowly
changing, the issue remains that as there is not much in the way of doctors coming
up in the ranks.

"Africa has one-percent of the
surgeons of the United States, and yet it has three times the population," says
Dr. Richard (Dick) Bransford, an award winning surgeon serving with Africa Inland Mission in Kenya. "Part of that is because the United States has
many of the surgeons that would normally have historically been in Africa."

It boils down to the context of
leadership and vision. "We'd like to better prepare, in the African
setting, African doctors to care for their own needs with disabled

Bransford has served with AIM since
1975, working in the Congo, the Comoro Islands, and Kijabe Hospital in
Kenya. Right now, he serves as medical director and pediatric
rehabilitation surgeon at Bethany Crippled Children's Centre in Kijabe, Kenya.    

A lifelong love for the people
kept Bransford anchored, but, having recently turned 70, he's at a stage in his life where
another transition is coming.

He's due to come back to the
United States in 2011 to help raise awareness about the passion, vision and needs of the medical
outreach in Africa. Bransford's timeline puts urgency
on the need for highly-trained medical personnel. 

Short-term missions are a short-term solution. They need something more
permanent. Bransford explains, "We
see more doctors come out to Africa, but they don't stay for the long run. They often stay four to six
years and then they're gone, but the continuity of care and the continuity
of vision, I think, is extremely
important. "

It's all in context. African doctors understand the culture, the
people and the setting. They are the
best answer to the questions posed by "brain drain." Regarding moving vision forward, Bransford says, "In
the last five years, we've developed a training program for general surgeons in
pediatric surgery, a pediatric surgery fellowship, and we've begun looking wider
on the continent as to where we can enter."

AIM is investigating the
feasibility of working in Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania. However, staffing
for a new hospital branch would mean drawing from an ever-shrinking pool of
existing medical personnel.  

What motivation would keep new
doctors? "One of the key ways to be
able to attract people to this is to provide good training, reasonable
finances, but also a spiritual dimension–a dimension of saying ‘what can we do
medically and spiritually in the lives of people?'" explains Bransford.

The Gospel makes all the
difference in the world. Being the hands
and feet of Christ sets the Children's Center facilities apart from all the rest. People see the difference, too. "Through
the work of Bethany kids, which is at Kijabe
hospital, the pediatric ward, we're seeing about 2500 people a
year come to the Lord. That's a
tremendous bonus on top of  the medical

You can help. Financial support for the training programs means national doctors are
best prepared to meet the needs. Prayer
support keeps the staff encouraged. Click
here for more.

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