The services and cooperation provided by the country's health workers during the first wave of Covid-19 last year deserved an appreciation. Within a fragile infrastructure exposed during the pandemic, most of them tried their best to provide health and medical services. Though there is a long list of complaints against health workers for not taking adequate care of the patients, they are not solely responsible for the shortcomings. Despite being part and parcel of the overall health facility, the health workers are also victims of a flawed, distorted and mismanaged system. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate them in the context.
Against the spread of the deadly virus, the government ordered different hospitals to provide dedicated service to coronavirus-infected patients last year. Most of the hospitals didn't have adequate medical equipment and logistics to deal with the patients. Nevertheless, health workers and hospital authorities put extra efforts in this regard. The Prime Minister at that time also announced a one-time honorarium for health workers of these hospitals. Following the PM's announcement, the finance minister allocated some Tk 1.40 billion in the national budget for FY21.
The sad thing is that it takes at least eight months to start the honorarium's disbursement due to bureaucratic procedure. The honorarium, equivalent to a health worker's two-month salary, is not a hefty incentive. Instead, it is a token recognition for service of some frontline fighters during Covid. By delaying to pay the honorarium, the authorities set a disappointing example. A report published in a vernacular daily in this regard unveiled the thing.
The finance ministry has informed the health ministry that any physician, nurse or other health worker is not eligible for the honorarium if they had been outsourced or worked through other means except formally appointed by the government. The official circular, issued in July last year, didn't explicitly mention this condition. It, however, said that 'physicians, nurses and health workers directly engaged in providing medical treatment to Covid-affected patients' would be eligible for the honorarium. Thus, a grey area was created by not elaborating the eligibility.
Again, it is alleged that the health ministry did not act appropriately to release the fund earlier. It is the health directorate's primary responsibility to process due bills of the hospitals by examining the lists. If the health ministry checked the lists and made those consistent with the finance ministry's circular of eligibility, it should not have taken too long to realise the funds. Immediately after the circular's issuance, the health ministry should have talked with the finance ministry for clarification and suggested eligibility of all kinds of physicians, nurses, and health workers for the honorarium.
The hospital management authorities also have to bear the responsibilities for not following due diligence to prepare the list of eligible physicians, nurses, and health workers. Some hospitals include the name to non-medical staff members who are not directly engaged in giving medical treatment to corona-infected patients. Before submitting the lists, the authorities should consult with the line department or directorate. Thus, delay in releasing the honorarium could be avoided during the pandemic.