By Kshitiz Siwakoti, Kathmandu, July 24: The shortage of approximately 20,000 healthcare workers in government-run hospitals throughout the country has threatened to expose a vulnerable health care system to the scourge of the anticipated third wave of the Coronavirus.
The Assistant Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari has said that under normal circumstances itself government-run hospitals require approximately 20,000 more healthcare workers which include Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics to keep the hospitals running smoothly.
“We cannot predict how many healthcare workers will be required if the third wave hits Nepal but the 20,000 required healthcare workers will definitely be a sigh of relief for the healthcare system,” Adhikari said.
He also added that there are currently 1200 sanctioned posts for Permanent Doctors. He further mentioned that many healthcare workers do not apply to government-run hospitals due to the short-sighted policies implemented by the government.
Dr Badri Rijal the General-Secretary of the Nepal Medical Association has said that Nepal actually does not have a shortage of Doctors.
“The government is very reluctant to employ healthcare workers and barely does announce vacancies for them. The government mostly hires healthcare workers on a contract basis due to which many refrain from applying due to the lack of job security,” Rijal said.
Dr Rijal strongly believes that if the government were to provide stable employment to doctors with reasonable pay many highly qualified doctors will actually begin to apply.
He further mentioned that the government had last conducted a survey on the requirement of healthcare workers according to the population of Nepal back in 1992-1993.
“Back then the population of Nepal was barely 15 million and now the population has crossed about 30 million and yet the number of vacancies in government-run hospitals still reflect the numbers in the old survey,” he said.
“We actually have no data on how many healthcare workers do we require with regards to the population as no surveys have been conducted for the last 30 years. Some places with higher population density will require more healthcare workers whereas many rural areas with less population will require less,” Rijal said to TRN Online.
He has also said that many healthcare workers do not apply for government-run hospitals as many of them are in faraway rural areas. “It is true that healthcare services need to be available in rural regions too. But the government needs to provide added incentives to attract more healthcare workers to rural regions,” he said.
Badri Rijal also highlighted the need for increased protection for healthcare workers from physical abuse as this has only increased during the pandemic and can also be a hurdle for healthcare workers from working in this sector.
The Chairperson of the Nursing Association of Nepal, Prof. Mana Kumari Rai too has said that there is actually no shortage of nurses in Nepal.
Nursing Association of Nepal was established in 1956-1957. Until now 95,000 nurses have been registered with the association as it is mandatory for all nurses in Nepal to be registered in the Association.
According to the Nursing Association of Nepal, approximately 15,000 nurses currently work for government-run hospitals and the same amount work for private hospitals. Approximately 28,000 nurses are working abroad and somewhere around 9,000 nurses have died.
"If we deduct these numbers from the 95,000 registered nurses somewhere around 28,000 nurses are still available for work,” Rai said.
Rai too highlighted that the government is reluctant to increase the number of vacancies to healthcare workers. “The government’s policy of hiring contract-based healthcare workers is not a sustainable solution to the healthcare workers crisis and this shortage can only exacerbate the effects of the possible third wave,” she added.
According to the Economic Survey of 2020-2021 conducted by the Ministry of Finance as of mid-July in 2020 Nepal had 90,946 healthcare workers. However, 577 healthcare workers had left their work as of mid-march this year.
According to the World Bank as of 2018 Nepal only had 0.748 physicians per 1000 people.