Frontline Covid-19 fighters – including doctors and nurses – at government hospitals across the country are going to get a daily cash allowance during their quarantine period of 15 days.
Those who provide medical services from their own homes or at their own initiative from other places will get this benefit, effective from July.
However, those who have availed government accommodation facilities for their quarantine will not receive it. And, a health worker will get the allowance for a maximum of 15 days per month.
An official of the health ministry's hospital wing, requesting not to be named, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the proposal in July. The health ministry sought the finance ministry's approval on Tuesday for the retroactive effect of the proposal.
The health directorate will issue a circular in this regard with the finance division's consent.
The health ministry said doctors, nurses and health workers engaged in the treatment of Covid-19 patients stay in quarantine for 15 days of every month after performing their duties for 15 consecutive days. Initially, housing arrangements were made for them in residential hotels and later at government training institutes.
The cost of staying at these places is high and it was not possible for all hotels' dues to be paid for with the allocation given by the finance ministry. Thus, the health ministry decided to give a cash allowance to health workers for 15 days of accommodation in quarantine every month.
According to the proposal approved by the prime minister, on-duty doctors at government hospitals in Dhaka city will get Tk2,000, daily, per head while nurses will get Tk1,200 and others Tk800. Doctors outside Dhaka city will be paid Tk1,800, nurses Tk1,000 and others Tk650 daily, per head.
The number of government health workers engaged in Covid-19 treatment in the country is 23,285. Of them, 5,726 are doctors, 10,044 are nurses and 8,515 are others. If all of them receive the allowance at the prescribed rate, the cost will be Tk39.50 crore per month.
Health ministry officials said health workers have been allowed to stay in quarantine for 15 days a month at various residential hotels since April following the novel coronavirus outbreak in March.
Till June, the finance ministry had released over Tk103 crore for their bills in three months – about Tk34 crore per month. However, the money was not enough to pay all the health workers.
In those three months, Tk52 crore was spent on the health workers of the Dhaka metropolis alone. Yet, many did not get their dues.
If the new proposal is implemented, it will cost slightly over Tk12 crore monthly for the health workers of the city, which is over Tk5 crore less than the amount spent per month during April-June.
According to the proposal approved by the prime minister, residential hotel rooms were rented for the quarantine of doctors, nurses and health workers engaged in Covid-19 treatment.
Reviewing the bills sought from various hospitals, it was observed that the accommodation arrangements cost the government a large sum of money.
Although an allocation of Tk103 crore was made during April-June, it was not sufficient to pay all health workers' bills. The finance ministry expressed its dissatisfaction with the unusually high amount of money they demanded.
Later, accommodation was arranged for them in a few other training centres, including the Bangladesh Institute of Administration and Management (Biam), in Dhaka city. The cost for this purpose was about Tk3,000 per person in a single room, including food.
It may be effective in big cities, but in all cases, it is not possible to ensure 100% management and satisfaction. So, a proposal has been put forward as an alternative so that health workers can do their own quarantine management.