African economists discuss impact of job-hunting doctors on healthcare quality

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Poor working conditions for doctors, nurses and health technicians has a huge effect on the quality of healthcare as it pushes the health workers to hold several jobs at the same time.

This is the finding of a new research by Gaston Brice Nkoumou Ngoa, an economist at the University of Yaoundé whose research attributes the job-hopping practice to unpredictable pay for health workers. 

The research on labour income of healthcare workers and multiple job-holders in urban centres in Cameroon focused on 827 healthcare workers who blamed their moonlighting practice on low income from their first or regular job. The research found 24 per cent of the workers had second or third jobs.

However, 74 per cent of the health workers remained loyal to one job. The research on labour behaviour and response to changes in incomes focused on workers, of which 11 per cent were doctors, 54 per cent nurses and 22 per cent health technicians and laboratory attendants.

The researcher told a session “Promoting Social Inclusion in Africa” at the 10th African Economic Conference in Kinshasa on Tuesday that the holding of multiple jobs affects the ability of the poor people to access healthcare.

“The healthcare workers behave differently in the job market. They focus on jobs which bring high income and hold several jobs because of financial motivation. This is because of the feeling of job insecurity on their main job,” Ngoa said.

According to him, some workers held a second job for reasons not linked to the need to provide healthcare but for extortion and guaranteed access to illicit forms of money-making and graft.

Ngoa attributed the explosion of the second jobs to salary cuts targeting civil servants and the depreciation of currencies in the 1990s, which affected household incomes.

His paper advocated for an end to the practice because it distorted the labour and employment market and affected service delivery.

“The impact of this practice is significant. Those with a second job are also those with low income jobs, mostly nurses and their working conditions are worsening. Policy should focus on discouraging this practice by giving bonuses to those willing to stick to one job.”

The AEC, jointly organized by the African Development Bank AfDB, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN Development Programme, is focusing its attention on fighting poverty. Its poverty fighting agenda is based on new ways of ensuring economic growth result into benefits.

The three-day conference ends Wednesday.

Describing the labour market research as a new development on economic science, UNDP official Isiyaka Sabo said the evidence showed peculiar working hours mostly encouraged health workers to look for a second job. This means the incomes from those jobs remained low.