DIRECTOR-GENERAL of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says many Caribbean countries' health ministers are frustrated by continually losing healthcare workers to international markets.
It is because of this, he urged WHO member states that recruit healthcare workers from the Caribbean to invest in the region to train more people.
Ghebreyesus spoke virtually at the 60th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), held in Washington, DC, on Monday morning.
He outlined the WHO's priorities for the next five years – promoting health, providing health, protecting health, powering for health, and performing for health.
He urged countries to engage in "radically reorienting health systems towards primary healthcare and the foundation of universal health coverage."
The Americas, he added, has one of the world's highest levels of service coverage. However, he noted that there are "wide variations" between countries.
Commending PAHO for its policy on strengthening human resources for health, Ghebreyesus said, "There is no health without healthcare workers."
He added, "I know from my conversations with many ministers from the Caribbean that they're frustrated at losing their health workers to international migration.
"Of course, we understand that migration will happen but we urge member states to honour the global code of practice on the international recruitment of health personnel. We also ask those member states that recruit from Caribbean countries to support Caribbean countries technically and financially to train more health workers."
PAHO director Jarbas Barbosa said there are many international organisations that "do not give as much attention as they should to this region...
"But we cannot simply leave it at that.
"There are gaps – fine – but we need to be sure that our needs are such that we can broach those breeches.
"In other words, we need to increase the potential of this region and all of its institutions."
He said it's time for the Americas must get its fair share of world health resources.
"We want our voice to be heard loud and clear.
"I believe that with the right equipment and with the resources we already have, our region has what it needs to meet the challenges that are before us in health."
PAHO, he said, is committed to addressing challenges like a decrease in immunisation, the increase in non-communicable diseases, the rise of mental health issues, among other things.
"Let's move forward forward with a shared vision to really improve the health of every single person in this hemisphere."