The migration of doctors and nurses from the developing to the developed world has only a limited impact on the crisis in health care in poor countries, the OECD said in a report Monday.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that increased immigration of medical personnel to the 30 industrialised economies in the OECD had sparked fears of a "brain drain" that is depriving poor countries of critically needed health professionals.
But the OECD, in its 2007 International Migration Outlook, said its research showed that the "global health workforce crisis goes far beyond the migration issue."
It said the number of immigrant medical workers in OECD countries represents "only a small fraction" -- 12 percent in Africa, for example -- of the needs of health care sectors in developing countirs, as estimated by the World Health Organisation.
"In short, although stopping the flow, if this were indeed possible, would alleviate the problem, it would not by itself solve the shortage issue," the OECD maintained.
The report argued for increased financial assistance from the developed world to health care sectors in poor countries and backed a WHO initiative to draft a "global code of practice" governing the international recruitment of medical personnel.
The OECD report challenged the perception that health professionals are over-represented among skilled immigrants, noting that in 2000, 11 percent of nurses and 18 percent of doctors employed on OECD countries were foreign-born.
Half of the immigrant doctors and nurses working in OECD members are in the United States, 40 percent in Europe and the rest in Australia and Canada.
Filipino-born nurses and Indian-born doctors each represent about 15 percrent of all nurses and doctors in the OECD.
But the OECD maintained that in countries such as India, the Philippines and China, which are big suppliers of overseas medical personnel, "the number of health professionals working overseas, although high, is low relative to the domestic supply and the number of doctors per person has not been strongly affected."
It said that while most OECD countries try to make it easier for highly skilled professionals to immigrate, there are few migration programs specifically targeting health care workers.