Understanding the 'four directions of travel': qualitative research into the factors affecting recruitment and retention of doctors in rural Vietnam.
Ha, B. T.
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Witter, S., Ha, B., Shengalia, B. & Vujicic, M. (2011) Understanding the 'four directions of travel': qualitative research into the factors affecting recruitment and retention of doctors in rural Vietnam., Human Resources for Health, vol. 9, , ,
Background Motivation and retention of health workers, particularly in rural areas, is a question of considerable interest to policy-makers internationally. Many countries, including Vietnam, are debating the right mix of interventions to motivate doctors in particular to work in remote areas. The objective of this study was to understand the dynamics of the health labour market in Vietnam, and what might encourage doctors to accept posts and remain in-post in rural areas. Methods This study forms part of a labour market survey which was conducted in Vietnam in November 2009 to February 2010. The study had three stages. This article describes the findings of the first stage - the qualitative research and literature review, which fed into the design of a structured survey (second stage) and contingent valuation (third stage). For the qualitative research, three tools were used - key informant interviews at national and provincial level (6 respondents); in-depth interviews of doctors at district and commune levels (11 respondents); and focus group discussions with medical students (15 participants). Results The study reports on the perception of the problem by national level stakeholders; the motivation for joining the profession by doctors; their views on the different factors affecting their willingness to work in rural areas (including different income streams, working conditions, workload, equipment, support and supervision, relationships with colleagues, career development, training, and living conditions). It presents findings on their overall satisfaction, their ranking of different attributes, and willingness to accept different kinds of work. Finally, it discusses recent and possible policy interventions to address the distribution problem. Conclusions Four typical 'directions of travel' are identified for Vietnamese doctors - from lower to higher levels of the system, from rural to urban areas, from preventive to curative health and from public to private practice. Substantial differences in income from formal and informal sources all reinforce these preferences. While non-financial attributes are also important for Vietnamese doctors, the scale of the difference of opportunities presents a considerable policy challenge. Significant salary increases for doctors in hard-to-staff areas are likely to have some impact. However, addressing the differentials is likely to require broader market reforms and regulatory measures.It is estimated that in 2000 almost 175 million people, or 2.9% of the world's population, were livingoutside their country of birth, compared to 100 million, or 1.8% of the total population, in 1995.As the global labour market strengthens, it is increasingly highly skilled professionals who aremigrating. Medical practitioners and nurses represent a small proportion of highly skilled workerswho migrate, but the loss of health human resources for developing countries can mean that thecapacity of the health system to deliver health care equitably is compromised. However, data tosupport claims on both the extent and the impact of migration in developing countries is patchyand often anecdotal, based on limited databases with highly inconsistent categories of educationand skills.The aim of this paper is to examine some key issues related to the international migration of healthworkers in order to better understand its impact and to find entry points to developing policyoptions with which migration can be managed.The paper is divided into six sections. In the first, the different types of migration are reviewed.Some global trends are depicted in the second section. Scarcity of data on health worker migrationis one major challenge and this is addressed in section three, which reviews and discusses differentdata sources. The consequences of health worker migration and the financial flows associated withit are presented in section four and five, respectively. To illustrate the main issues addressed in theprevious sections, a case study based mainly on the United Kingdom is presented in section six.This section includes a discussion on policies and ends by addressing the policy options from abroader perspective.