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The Migrant Medics

As foreign-born medics struggle to save the lives of patients during the coronavirus epidemic, Zeinab Badawi asks if their work amounts to exploitation of their home countries.

On the 25th March 2020, transplant consultant Adil El Tayar became the first working hospital doctor to die of Covid-19 in the UK. Born in the Sudan, he graduated from the University of Khartoum and moved to the UK in the '90s, where he then studied at the University of West London, before becoming a consultant at St. George’s Hospital. He was a cousin of BBC journalist Zeinab Badawi for whom Adil’s story – alongside the deaths of other NHS staff – raises wider questions. A huge number of doctors, nurses and others have come to Britain after training in the developing world. Naturally, they want to improve their standards of living and work in more sophisticated medical systems. But is it fair for the rich world to benefit by effectively cherry-picking the brightest and best from poorer countries? Is this effectively a form of neo-colonial exploitation? Or can the expertise of those medical staff who migrate to wealthier countries benefit their home nations? Dr El-Tayar, for example, helped at a major transplant programme in his native Sudan. Some argue that this brain cycle – rather than a brain drain – along with remittances, is actually of benefit to the developing world. Zeinab Badawi unpicks this tricky and intensely personal conundrum.

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28 minutes

Last on

Wed 20 May 2020 11:00