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Covid-19: Health professional shortage remains a challenge in Bangladesh

  • Published at 04:49 pm November 18th, 2020
coronavirus test MHO
File photo: A health official uses a nasal swab to collect sample from a man for Covid-19 testing at Central Police Hospital in Rajarbagh, Dhaka on Thursday, May 21, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Though some health workers have been recruited recently, technicians and other staff still remain neglected

Bangladesh is fighting against the deadly coronavirus with a shortage of around 50,000 physicians, nurses, medical technicians, ward boys and health workers across the country.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said a total of 11,364 posts for physicians are vacant now. 

Process is underway to fill up the vacancies of 2,650 doctors through the Bangladesh Public Service Commission.

He made the statement at a question-answer session in the National Parliament on Monday.

The lack of recruitment for the last five years was due to a change in the recruitment law as well as putting officers on special duty (OSD). 

Despite Dhaka being the main hotspot for Covid-19 infection in Bangladesh, some 3,185 posts for physicians are vacant in the capital. 

Such a shortage has been interrupting medical services as the number of patients is now on an increasing trend.

Bangladesh on Tuesday recorded 39 deaths from Covid-19, which is the highest number of single day deaths in the country since September 21. 

A total of 2,212 fresh cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on the same day, the highest since September 3, according to a press release of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

As per Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) data, some 2,876 doctors and 1,973 nurses were infected by coronavirus until November 14. At the same time 3,276 medical staff were also infected. 

The government appointed 2,000 assistant surgeons on an emergency basis who passed the 39th BCS examination. At the same time, 5,054 nurses were also appointed to serve the nation, but 5,868 posts for nurse and midwifery are still vacant. 

Employee

Total post

Deployed

Vacant

Physicians

29,320

17,956

11,364

Nurses and Midwives

42,974

37,106

5,868

DGHS officials and staff

111,907

80,354

31,553

Others 

1,556

1,236

320

Total

185,757

1,36,652

49,105

Source: DGHS

The number of vacancies is much higher for the post of medical technician, pharmacist, ward boy, security guard, cleaner and driver.

According to the DGHS, a total number of 31,553 posts are vacant under the DGHS. Of them 28,921 posts are for the grade of 10-20 of the payscale which include medical technologists, pharmacists, ward boys, security guards, cleaners and drivers.

Why the shortage

Health Minister Zahid Maleque clarified that the number of vacancies in Dhaka has increased so much due to the high number of OSD (officer on special duty).

Also, DGHS informed that the recruitment process was paused from 2013 to 2018 as Bangladesh Health Services (non-medical officers and employees) Recruitment Rules 1985 was removed following a Supreme Court order.

Once the legal complexities were overcome in 2018, the DGHS started the recruitment process again.

Last year, DGHS announced a circular for recruiting around 1,250 field workers while some 750,000 job seekers applied. 

However, the process was halted due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Sheikh Md Hasan Imam, director (Administration) of DGHS said: “The recruiting process was suspended for a long time. Now the process of recruiting medical staff is underway amid the pandemic as medical service is highly interrupted due to shortage of manpower.”

“We have proposed to take some recruitment examinations in district level and divisional level instead of doing it centrally. It will help us reduce gathering and speed up the process” he told Dhaka Tribune.

“The government should immediately recruit medical workers including technicians, pharmacists, ward boys, field workers to tackle the second wave of coronavirus,” said Dr Ehteshamul Huq Choudhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA). 

“If we had required technicians and pharmacists we could easily serve more patients,” he added. 

Salim Mollah, former general secretary of the Bangladesh Medical Technologist Association (BMTA) said medical technologists are frontline fighters against Covid-19. They collect the sample from suspected Covid-19 patients.  

“Though the government appointed thousands of doctors and nurses, recruitment of technicians is still in the backline, but it should get equal priority,” he added.  

Without the assistance of health workers, physicians or nurses cannot serve the patients properly. Along with a doctor and a nurse, appointing a health worker is significantly important for ensuring better treatment,” he said.

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