THE prime minister sounding a warning against physicians posted to public hospitals in outlying or remote areas but not staying there for private practice in cities, especially Dhaka, saying that they might quit the job to pave the way for fresh recruitment is, indeed, welcome. This appears to be more so when more than three-fourths of the people, mostly living in rural areas, are deprived of proper healthcare services as physicians posted to public hospitals are mostly unwilling to work and stay in outlying areas. The government, therefore, needs to shore up the health services sector in view of a deplorable state that primary health care services for all the citizens has plunged into over the years. The prime minister rightly sounded the warning to the physicians employed in public hospitals when she handed over keys to ambulances to 98 hospitals, health complexes and healthcare institutions at a programme in her office in Dhaka on Thursday. But physicians now posted to public hospitals leaving their job may not be a sound solution as the physician-patient ratio has been stuck at 1:1893 and the nurse-patient ratio at 1:3960, as New Age reported on Friday.
With only 87,237 physicians, 41,697 nurses and 11,976 paramedics for 160 million people, as official accounts put it, it is extremely difficult to ensure quality health services for all. It is in this context such warnings, however repeatedly sounded, would only remain to be rhetoric unless others issues that make physicians, or any public servants posted to remote areas, in general, and to places outside the capital, in particular, are adequately attended to. Keeping physicians, or other government officials, to the places they are posted warrants that the government should improve on some situations across the country at the same pace. When public servants are posted to places outside the capital, they are less willing to take their family there. This is mostly because of lack or shortage of facilities that they need for the family. Almost all of them, who had better eduction in their student life, think that they should also afford their children better education. But in the absence of good educational institutions and the government’s indifference towards improving the quality of education in those institutions, as has always been evident in the results of public examinations at the primary, secondary and higher secondary levels, they prefer leaving their family back in cities and travel back and forth. Along with this, housing and improved healthcare services are the other issues that the government need to ensure on a priority basis for public servants to be willing to stay in outlying areas.
As long as the government cannot look into these issues, and some others, and improve them sustainably, it will be difficult for the government to force public servants, not just physicians or teachers, to stay at places they are posted to. And as long as all this does not happen, any warning, however tough and however oft-repeated, would remain unmeaning.
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