Rwanda health care bleeds as workers quit over poor pay and lack of benefits

Friday May 26 2023
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Recent data shows the public health sector lost a good number of healthcare workers to brain drain. Picture: File

By Ange Iliza

Rwanda is among African countries that have fallen victim to healthcare workers' exodus, damning the country’s health sector.

Poor working conditions, lack of benefits and insufficient compensation for the workload have been cited as some of the reasons healthcare workers choose to migrate to wealthier nations or leave for better-paying jobs.

Beatrice Furaha, a nurse at the Ruhengeri Referral Hospital in Musanze district, paints a picture of her work conditions that have demoralized many of her colleagues.

Furaha, who has a bachelor’s degree in General Nursing, gets to the hospital every day at 7am, two hours before the legal work hours in Rwanda. She eats her breakfast while attending the morning daily briefing. Her shift begins at 8am, a flurry of activity that lasts until 6pm when she hands over to the night shift nurses.

Furaha works in the pediatrics department, attending to a minimum of 60 patients a day. Her duties include taking medical exams assigned by doctors, billing, giving doctors’ prescriptions, following up with pharmacies, attending to inhouse patients and filling out admitting and discharging paperwork. Furaha’s department has three nurses.

Each is allowed a hour one lunch break but Furahahas not taken that hour off in the past five years; there is always something that needs her attention. Usually she snacks for lunch while attending to paperwork.


When Furaha started in 2001, she earned Rwf45,000 per month. Now, she earns Rwf190,000 per month, but this is still insufficient to cater for her family.

“If anything was to change, I would ask for more nurses so we have less workload and an increase in our salaries or other benefits. We are currently only given health insurance as a work benefit,” Furaha said.

In the 22 years Furaha has been a nurse, she has seen many of her colleagues leave the profession. Some moved to better-paying jobs in the private sector while others left the country.

Data by the National Institute of Statistics shows that between 2019 and 2021, the number of pharmacists in the public sector decreased from 100 to 79 while anesthesia practitioners decreased from 330 to 322. Public health workers decreased from 105 to 94.

There was also a decrease in the number of eye doctors, laboratory technicians, physiotherapists and environmental health workers even when health facilities have increased from 1,400 to 2,046 between 2019 and 2021.