Over 340 medics went south in past 10 years By Mkinga Mkinga The Citizen More than 340 Tanzania medical personnel left the country during the past decade to seek greener pastures in the Southern African countries mainly in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the midst of an acute shortage of such personnel. Briefing a delegation of health officials from the Kingdom of Lesotho on the success of the National Health Insurance Fund, the minister for Health and Social Welfare, Prof David Mwakyusa, said the doctors left for what he described as 'looking for more economic prosperity.' The medical personnel departure is a big blow to Tanzania which faces an acute shortage of doctors, and various other medical expertise. Tanzania is one of countries in the world with the highest ratio of doctor to patients, as it now stands at one doctor for 50,000 patients. According to the minister, some 111 are qualified doctors, while 229 are medical practitioners in different areas. However, he revealed that the Government was in a process of returning the 'self exiled' medics back to the country before 2010. He said since the Government invested heavily to train them, it can't afford to see the same experts leave to serve other countries. Commenting on the National Health Insurance Fund, the minister said the situation was still low as it now reaches only 5.2 per cent of all Tanzanians. He told the Lesotho 11-member delegation that when the NHFI was established it began by enrolling teachers because they constitute a large group of workers in the central Government. The minister noted that although the NHFI began at a slow pace, health services have been making steady improvement. "When we started this fund it faced several challenges, but today we have achieved some credible progress� you should also be prepared to face challenges before reaching the breakthrough point," the minister cautioned the Lesotho delegation. Speaking to reporters, the head of Lesotho delegation, the principal secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Mr Teleko Ramotsoari, said they have come to Tanzania to learn how to establish a health insurance fund. "We have decided to learn from Tanzania because we have similar economy, and we heard that Tanzania has succeeded on establishing its NHIF. "We want to know what you applied to achieve the success," Mr Ramotsoari said. Commenting on health personnel, Mr Ramotsoari said Lesotho has a problem as well because its doctors work in South Africa and Europe, and as a result, Lesotho is served by Tanzanian doctors and nurses. The Lesotho delegation will be in the country for seven days, visiting several areas where health insurance services are provided.