Bangladesh has been suffering from an inadequate number of nurses, one of the important frontline health workforces. The shortage is being felt deeply in the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Altogether 229 nurses have already been infected with the novel coronavirus.
According to the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), three nurses have to be recruited against one doctor.
The health bulletin of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) notes that the number of registered doctors in Bangladesh is 102,997.
Against such a background, the country needs more than 3 lakh nurses. But the number of the registered nurses was 73,043 till April this year, according to the Bangladesh Nursing and Midwifery Council (BNMC).
That means the country has only 24 percent of the nurses it needs. Despite the 76 percent shortage of nurses, many of the nursing graduates do not get jobs in time.
Shuriya Begum, registrar of the BNMC, said, "The nursing profession has not been given importance in the country for a long time. The number of nursing colleges is not sufficient in comparison with the population. The government has been increasing the number of colleges every year to fulfill the demand."
About the unemployment issue, Shuriya said, "We have the capacity to recruit all certified nurses, but many private hospitals are using non-certified persons as nurses. That's why many are unemployed."
Around 10,000 nurses among more than 73,000 registered nurses are currently unemployed, according to the Bangladesh Basic Graduate Nurses Society (BBGNS).
"I completed my four-year BSc course, along with a 6-month internship, and received a certificate last year. I applied to different private hospitals, but still haven't got any response," said Naim Bin Saifuddin, a former student of Dhaka Nursing College.
The number of total beds in public and registered private hospitals is 143,394.
Around 43,000 nurses are employed in government hospitals.
The government announced nursing as a 10-grader job (second class) in 2011.
Anwar Hossain, general secretary of the BBGNS, said, "Not a single nurse is supposed to remain unemployed considering the number of hospitals and beds in the country. It's an artificial crisis created by private hospitals. They use non-certified persons as nurses with poor salaries."
According to the BNMC, there are 86 BSc and 250 diploma nursing colleges (public and private) in the country with more than 17,000 seats.
According to the authorities, around 15,000 nurses enter the job market in every year.
"The number of nurses is not sufficient. When a considerable number of nursing graduates become ready to enter the job market, we offer job circular for government hospitals. Otherwise, it is tough to select efficient nurses from a poor number of candidates," said Shahadat Hossain, additional secretary (nursing and midwifery wing) of the health ministry.
Nahida Akter Jahan, a teacher of health economics at Dhaka University, said, "The overall health sector is under pressure owing to shortages among the workforce. The government should take the initiative toward preferring qualified nurses and recruiting them in time."
The government will appoint 6,000 nurses from the waiting lists of senior staff nurses' recruitment tests in 2018 under the Bangladesh Public Service Commission (BPSC) to tackle the novel coronavirus crisis.
Around 11,357 candidates qualified at their written tests at the time. From among them, the government appointed 5,100 after viva-voce examinations.
The Basic Graduate Nurses Society has demanded that the health ministry recruit 6,000 nurses from the remaining 6,257 candidates in the BPSC test 2018.
Shahadat Hossain, additional secretary (nursing and midwifery wing) of the health ministry, said, "We will recruit the nurses from the BPSC test 2018. Earlier, the ministry began another process to recruit 2,500 nurses for vacant posts."